Diabetes and Prediabetes - What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You

July 29, 2013

What is Prediabetes?

Type 2 diabetes is a serious medical condition in which a build up of glucose in the body which can damage tiny blood vessels in the heart, kidneys, eyes, and nervous system. In healthy people the body produces insulin to help cells use the glucose found in food. In diabetics either the body doesn’t make enough insulin or doesn’t properly use the insulin it does produce. Diabetes causes more deaths a year than breast cancer and AIDS combined. Two out of three people with diabetes die from heart disease or stroke.

Most don’t realize that type 2 diabetes develops gradually. You may assume that as long as your blood glucose is within normal limits at each annual medical exam you do not have diabetes and therefore do not need to make any lifestyle changes. This assumption can have devastating consequences because you may actually be suffering from Prediabetes.

Prediabetes means that you have a higher than normal blood sugar level, but not high enough to be considered diabetes. Prediabetes is diagnosed by measuring Glycohemoglobin, or HgA1c, in the blood. HgA1c is the gold standard for diagnosing diabetes since it measures what your blood sugar has been averaging over a 3 month period, providing your physician with a more accurate assessment of your health.

Symptoms and Risk Factors

Millions of people have diabetes and prediabetes and don’t know it. It is important to diagnose and treat prediabetes as soon as possible before it progresses since recent research has shown that some long term damage to the body, especially the heart and the vascular system, may already be occurring during prediabetes. The symptoms of prediabetes can be gradual and include:

· Increased thirst

· Frequent urination

· Blurred vision

· Tingling or numbness of hands and feet

· Fatigue

Risk factors for prediabetes include:

· Overweight or obesity

· Family history of diabetes

· History of gestational diabetes

· High blood pressure

· High triglycerides

· Low HDL cholesterol

Treatment

Significant dietary changes are necessary once a diagnosis of prediabetes has been made. A healthy diet should include low fat proteins, vegetables, whole grains, and other low sugar, low carb choices. In addition, regular exercise, at least 150 minutes a week, is also mandatory in order to reduce body weight. Your glucose and HgA1c should be monitored routinely by your doctor. If diet and exercise are not effective at reducing your HgA1c, medication may be necessary.

Outlook

While a diagnosis of prediabetes is serious it is more easily treated than full-blown type 2 diabetes. With long-term integration of healthier lifestyle habits diabetes can be avoided completely, and your risk of death from diabetes related medical conditions will decrease significantly.

For more information, visit the American Diabetes Association page.

Written by Josette Taglieri, D.O.