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Here’s Your Sign: Understanding Prediabetes

March 15, 2021

At your last appointment, your medical provider said you have something called “prediabetes.” But what is that?

If you’re a little unsure, you aren’t alone! While most people are familiar with diabetes—and maybe even with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes—prediabetes may be an unknown.

But while it’s less well known, it’s incredibly common. One in three American adults have prediabetes, and many don’t even know it. That’s an astounding 88 million Americans.

Rauf Baba, MD

If you receive a diagnosis of prediabetes, what should you know? Read on as Rauf Baba, MD, endocrinologist with West Tennessee Medical Group, sheds some light on the topic.

What Is Prediabetes?
First, what is prediabetes exactly? It’s pretty much what it sounds like. It’s a condition that occurs when your blood sugar is too high, but not high enough to be categorized as Type 2 diabetes. Hence, it’s “pre” diabetes.

Prediabetes occurs when your body either isn’t making enough insulin or your body isn’t using insulin efficiently. It is diagnosed when your fasting glucose level is between 100 and 125 or when your A1C test is between 5.7 and 6.4 percent. 

You might think it isn’t a huge deal if your blood sugar is slightly too high. But when it’s above normal and stays above normal for any length of time, you’re at an increased risk of serious health conditions such as heart disease and stroke.

The good news is: Having prediabetes doesn’t automatically mean you will eventually develop Type 2 diabetes. It should be considered a sign that it’s time to change your lifestyle habits to improve your health.

Who’s at Risk of Prediabetes?
The risk factors for prediabetes are the same as risk factors for Type 2 diabetes. These factors include:

  • Being overweight or obese
  • Being 45 years old or older
  • Ever giving birth to a baby 9 pounds or heavier
  • Ever having gestational diabetes
  • Having a parent or sibling with Type 2 diabetes
  • Having polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
  • Living a sedentary lifestyle

You’ll notice that some of the factors we’ve listed above are things you can control. While Type 1 diabetes is thought to have a genetic component and can’t be prevented, Type 2 diabetes and prediabetes are largely preventable.

That’s because they’re associated with the lifestyle habits Americans have developed over the past half century, as we collectively have gained weight, gotten less active and begun eating a diet higher in processed foods.

While that sounds sobering, it also means that you can take steps to improve your health—and lessen your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

How Can I Get Rid of Prediabetes?
If you’ve been diagnosed with prediabetes—or even if you simply want to avoid it in the first place—some basic lifestyle habits can often help lower your blood sugar:

  • Aim for a healthy weight. Talk with your medical provider about a good weight for you based on your height and other factors. Even losing five or 10 pounds is often enough to lower your risk of developing prediabetes or Type 2 diabetes.
  • Eat a balanced diet. Limit your intake of saturated fat, added sugar, and excess sodium. Instead, eat plenty of fruits and vegetables and whole grains for added fiber. Incorporate lean sources of protein, such as chicken, turkey or fish. Fatty fish in particular have an added benefit, since they contain heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, so two servings a week is ideal.
  • Get moving. Most Americans don’t get the recommended amount of exercise each week. Aim to get at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity each week, or amp up your routine with strenuous exercise. If you’re looking to lose weight, you may need to exercise more intensely or for longer. Include a blend of cardiovascular exercise and strength-training for optimal results.
  • Don’t smoke. If you do smoke, quit. Smoking can make you more likely to develop insulin resistance, where your body doesn’t effectively use the insulin available to it. That’s a contributing factor in the development of prediabetes.
  • Prioritize quality sleep. There’s evidence that many people who have diabetes have difficulty getting enough sleep—and that not getting enough sleep increases your risk of developing diabetes. Practice good sleep hygiene habits to get the sleep you need on a regular basis.

Your blood sugar can be checked as part of your routine annual checkup. If it’s been a while since you had a checkup, schedule one today! Make an Appointment