Prediabetes is a message from your body. Think of it as the warning shot. But there’s a lot you can do to prevent or manage it to keep it from becoming full-blown Type 2 Diabetes. But first, a few basics.
- Diabetes is a disorder of your metabolism that affects the regulation of glucose (sugar) in the bloodstream and its use in your cells for energy.
- Insulin is a hormone made by your pancreas that acts like a key to let blood sugar into cells to be used for energy.
Prediabetes is a message from your body telling you that your blood sugar is high, but not high enough to be Type 2 Diabetes.
➡ If you have prediabetes, the cells in your body don’t respond normally to insulin.
➡ Your pancreas makes more insulin to try to get cells to respond.
➡ Eventually your pancreas can’t keep up, and your blood sugar rises, setting the stage for Prediabetes—and Type 2 Diabetes down the road.
Symptoms & Risk Factors
As we now know, prediabetes is a message from your body, however, you can have prediabetes for years without symptoms, so it often goes undetected until serious health problems, such as Type 2 Diabetes, show up.
➡ It’s important to talk to your doctor about getting your blood sugar tested if you have any of the risk factors for prediabetes, which include:
- Being overweight
- Being 45 years or older
- Having a parent, brother, or sister with Type 2 Diabetes
- Being physically active less than 3 times a week
- Having had gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy) or giving birth to a baby who weighed more than 9 pounds
- Having polycystic ovary syndrome
Race and ethnicity are also a factor:
➡ African Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, American Indians, Pacific Islanders, and some Asian Americans are at higher risk.
There are two other types of Diabetes – Type 1 (Juvenile Onset) and Type 2 – Think of prediabetes as a “warning signal” for Type 2 Diabetes.
- Approximately 84 million American adults—more than 1 out of 3—have prediabetes.
Of those, 90% don’t know they have it.
Not only does it raise the probability of developing Type 2 Diabetes, but it raises the risk of heart disease and strokes.
The good news is that once you recognize that prediabetes is a message from your body, the CDC-led National Diabetes Prevention Program can help you make lifestyle changes to prevent or delay Type 2 Diabetes and other serious health problems.
Recent research has identified specific changes in the body that begin to cause long-term damage to the heart and circulatory system.
Two different tests can be used to decide if high blood sugar is a problem that should be addressed. These tests are usually (and should be) ordered if the person has underlying risk factors.
➡ The first test is a fasting plasma glucose test. This measures the amount of glucose or sugar in the bloodstream after not having eaten for at least 12 hours.
➡ The second test is an oral glucose tolerance test (gtt). This test requires a bit more coöperation from the patient since they must drink 8-16 ounces of a high sugar drink after having fasted for 12 hours.
If the physician wants the oral GTT they will draw a fasting glucose before starting the test. Once the individual drinks the fluid a lab technician will draw blood and ask for a urine sample every 30 to 60 minutes.
This test measures the body’s response to a high load of glucose and how well the pancreas can respond with insulin as well as how quickly the body can move the glucose into the cells.
Today, treatment for prediabetes includes dietary changes, lifestyle changes, and exercise. These changes help the body to more fully use the insulin that it’s producing and possibly delay further treatment for diabetes with oral medications or insulin injections.
➡ Blood sugar values that range over 126 for fasting or 140 for the oral glucose challenge represent diabetes that must be treated and monitored more closely.
➡ A recent study found that about 11% of patients with prediabetes go on to develop Type 2 Diabetes in one year.
In addition, an important piece of information, based on research, found that the increased risk of heart disease and stroke in people who smoked was most likely caused because nicotine builds insulin resistance in the body.
This resistance is what causes the prediabetes which in turn leads to a greater risk of cardiovascular disease.
Their results suggested that by working to decrease the insulin resistance found in smokers they could effectively lower the risk of cardiovascular disease in the same population.