What does Pre-diabetes mean, I’ve heard of it but don’t understand what it is.
According to the Webster dictionary, pre-diabetes is a condition in which the blood glucose levels are elevated but not high enough for a diabetes diagnosis.
If you have been diagnosed with pre-diabetes certain lifestyle changes are crucial if you want to avoid developing Type 2 Diabetes.
What Causes Pre-diabetes
Our pancreas releases a hormone called insulin when we eat. Insulin allows our body to take the sugar from our food and put it in our cells for energy. That is how insulin lowers our blood sugar levels, by putting that sugar in the cells where it can effectively be utilized to do the things we do each day.
With pre-diabetes, the cells don’t properly respond to insulin causing the sugar from our food to remain in our blood. This is called insulin resistance.
It remains unclear what causes insulin resistance however the Mayo Clinic reports that pre-diabetes is strongly linked to lifestyle factors and genetics.
Pre-diabetes and Type 2 Diabetes have the same risk factors that increase the odds of diagnosis. These risk factors can include:
- Being overweight is a primary risk factor. The more fatty tissue you have, the more resistant to insulin your cells become.
- Waist size, a waist larger than 40 inches for men and 35 inches for women increase the risk of developing insulin resistance and Type 2 Diabetes.
- Diet, eating red and processed meat as well as drinking sugar-sweetened beverages increases the risk of pre-diabetes
- Inactivity, the less active you are, the greater your risk.
- Age, while diabetes can develop at any age, the risk of pre-diabetes and Type 2 diabetes increases after age 45.
- Genetics, if you have a parent or sibling with Type 2 diabetes your risk increases.
- Race, it is unclear why African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, Asian Americans, and Pacific Islanders are more likely to develop pre-diabetes.
- Gestational Diabetes, if you had gestational diabetes, you and your child are at an increased risk of developing pre-diabetes. If you had diabetes while you were pregnant your doctor will likely check your blood sugar levels at least once every three years.
- Polycystic ovary syndrome is characterized by irregular menstrual periods, excess hair growth, and obesity which puts these women at an increased risk.
- Obstructive Sleep Apnea is a condition that disrupts sleep and people who have this condition have an increased risk of pre-diabetes.
- Tobacco smoke may increase insulin resistance. It seems that smokers carry more belly fat.
Other risk factors could include:
- High blood pressure
- Low levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), the good cholesterol
- High levels of triglycerides – a type of fat in the blood
When these conditions occur in conjunction with obesity they are associated with insulin resistance. While the combination of three or more of these conditions is called metabolic syndrome.
How Is It Diagnosed
Your doctor will want to do a blood test to make a diagnosis. You will take the same test twice to reach a diagnosis.
Anyone of these tests will be used to reach a diagnosis:
- The hemoglobin A1c test is also called the glycosylated hemoglobin test or A1c and measures the average blood sugar level over the last 2 to 3 months. The higher the result the higher your chances of your pre-diabetes progressing to type 2 diabetes. You are not required to fast for this test. The A1c test is also used to determine whether a diabetic’s treatment plan is working effectively or needs adjustments.
- Fasting plasma glucose (FPG) test, your doctor will ask you to fast for 8 hours or overnight. Before you eat a healthcare professional will draw a blood sample for testing. Prediabetes is determined if there is a blood sugar level of 100-125 milligrams per deciliter(mg/dL)
- Oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) also requires fasting. Your blood will be taken at the beginning of the appointment and then two hours after drinking a sugary drink. If the blood sugar level reads 140-199 mg/dL after two hours prediabetes is indicated
- Eat more fiber – foods rich in fiber play a significant role in controlling pre-diabetes. Fiber helps you feel full longer, improves bowel function, and prevents high blood sugar spikes. Fibre also helps you have more energy throughout the day. Healthy sources of fiber may include:
- fruit (leave on edible skin)
- vegetables (leave on edible skin)
- quinoa, brown rice
- whole-grain bread and cereals
- nuts and seeds
- Limit sugar – when trying to deal with pre-diabetes you should eliminate all sources of refined sugars in the diet. Refined sugars hinder the metabolism and significantly impact the uncontrolled glucose levels and the development of diabetes. Try to avoid sweetened cereals, soft drinks, and any other foods that contain high amounts of sugar. There are healthier options such as stevia or honey if you require a sweetener in your coffee or tea.
- Drink more water – Drinking more water will help the kidneys and digestive system functions better. The best thing about water is that it contains no calories, replacing sugary sodas, juices, and energy drinks that will disguise thirst rather than quench it. If you require a flavor to your water try adding some cucumber slices.
- Lose weight – It is well-known that people who are overweight are at an increased risk of developing diabetes and for this reason, it makes sense to shed those few extra pounds. Work with your doctor to find a suitable weight loss plan for you.
- Regular exercise – The easiest and most effective way to control pre-diabetes and prevent developing diabetes is through a healthy diet and regular exercise. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) states that a sedentary lifestyle is associated with increased resistance to insulin. They recommend exercising for at least 30 minutes, 5 days a week. Walking, dancing, and cycling are great sources of exercise.
Anyone who has received a diagnosis of pre-diabetes should seriously take it as a warning to make some lifestyle changes to avoid more serious complications.
Be sure to follow your doctor recommendations and report any of these symptoms as they indicate you may have developed type 2 diabetes:
- increased thirst
- frequent urination
- excess hunger
- blurred vision
Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet that is rich in fiber and whole foods. Eliminate refined sugar as much as possible and use honey or stevia if you require a natural sweetener.
Drink plenty of water to help your kidneys and digestive system work properly.
Because obesity increases the risk of going on and developing Type 2 diabetes it is important to lose weight.
Getting daily exercise is one of the most effective ways of controlling pre-diabetes.
Of course, the combination of eating a healthy diet with portion control and daily exercise will significantly help with losing that weight and helping to reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and other complications.
Take control of your health now and do all you can to live your healthiest life.
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