In the stage before diabetes, specifically Type 2 diabetes, most people have something called prediabetes, though they may not realize it until it has turned to full-fledged diabetes. Prediabetes is a state in which blood sugar levels are higher than normal, yet are not high enough to be considered at diabetic levels.
Though prediabetes is not as serious as diabetes, the condition is still quite damaging to the body. Having high blood sugar, no matter how high, can cause significant damage to the body over time, including the brain, heart, and circulatory system. And, if left untreated and unchanged, prediabetes will eventually develop to diabetes, generally within 10 years of onset.
With prediabetes, the body is not easily using the insulin created and released by the pancreas. This situation is called insulin resistance. Over time, insulin resistance becomes worse as the body fights constantly to create enough insulin to use the sugars in the blood. Eventually the pancreas will be unable to keep up with the demand. Blood sugar levels rise to dangerously high levels and will eventually be high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes.
Prediabetes usually does not have symptoms, so the American Diabetes Association states that those over the age of 45, especially those who are overweight or obese, should be tested. People under the age of 45 may also need to be tested if they have certain risk factors, including high blood pressure, low cholesterol and high triglycerides, a family history of diabetes, have had gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy, or are a part of an at-risk ethnic or minority group.
Once prediabetes is detected, it is manageable and often can even be reversed, thus preventing diabetes. The first step in lowering blood sugar is to lose weight. Losing 10 to 15 pounds of fat can dramatically decrease blood sugar levels and help your body re-learn to recognize insulin. Eating foods low on the glycemic index scale may also help manage blood glucose levels. Managing diet is an essential component of reversing prediabetes, and a nutritionist, dietitian, or family doctor can help create an eating plan for each individual’s needs.
Exercising is the other key component to regulating blood sugar levels, losing weight, and preventing diabetes. Living a sedentary lifestyle has been linked to significant increases in the risk for fatal conditions such as heart attack, stroke, and some cancers, in addition to diabetes. Most health organizations, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suggest that all adults get at least 150 minutes of light to moderate physical activity each week plus two days of strength or resistance training that works each major muscle group. Getting active can be as simple as doing something you love, such as tennis, jogging, recreational basketball, or racquetball.
Prediabetes, a precursor to full-blown diabetes, can be dangerous if left untreated. It serves as a warning for the onset of diabetes and, therefore, should be taken seriously. Keep an eye on your health, especially as you age or become overweight or obese. With proper monitoring and physician involvement, most health risks can be mitigated.