How to Fight Prediabetes

Type 2 diabetes is one of the most serious chronic illnesses in existence; it puts people at risk for everything from heart and kidney disease to amputation of limbs. According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), it is shockingly widespread 29.1 million Americans have the illness. And the ADA estimates that 86 million more Americans have prediabetes, a condition that indicates a high risk of developing the illness.

Here, from the federal National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse and the ADA, is what you need to know about prediabetes:

If you’re given a diagnosis of prediabetes, it means the amount of glucose (sugar) in your blood is higher than normal but not high enough to be called diabetes. Glucose is a form of sugar your body uses for energy. Too much glucose in your blood can damage your body over time. If you have prediabetes, also called impaired fasting glucose (IFG) or impaired glucose tolerance (IGT), you’re more to develop type 2 diabetes and are at increased risk of heart disease and stroke.

According to the ADA, some people with prediabetes already have symptoms of diabetes, although most don’t. But your doctor can test your blood to find out if your blood glucose levels are higher than normal. If you are 45 years old or older, your doctor may recommend that you be tested for prediabetes, especially if you are overweight. Excess weight and inactivity are key contributors to prediabetes. If your body mass index (BMI) is higher than 25, you are overweight. BMI is a measure of your weight relative to your height. If you’re not sure if you are overweight, ask your doctor.

Even if you are younger than 45, the NDIC suggests that you consider getting tested for prediabetes if you are overweight and

are physically inactive

have a parent, brother, or sister with diabetes

have high blood pressure or high cholesterol—blood fat

have abnormal levels of HDL, or good, cholesterol or triglycerides—another type of blood fat

had gestational diabetes—diabetes that develops only during pregnancy—or gave birth to a baby weighing more than 9 pounds

are African American, Alaska Native, American Indian, Asian American, Hispanic/Latino, or Pacific Islander American

have polycystic ovary syndrome, also called PCOS

have a dark, velvety rash around your neck or armpits

have blood vessel problems affecting your heart, brain, or legs

If your test results are normal, you should be retested in three years. If you have prediabetes, ask your doctor if you should be tested again in one year.

The good news, though, is that you can prevent or delay diabetes or even reverse prediabetes. The NDIC recommends losing at least 5 to 10 percent of your starting weight. Besides eating a healthy diet, the NDIC suggests being physically active for at least 30 minutes per day. (Be sure to check with your doctor whether this is OK for you). Physical activity, the NDIC says, not only burns calories but also helps your body to properly use the hormone insulin. Your body needs insulin to use glucose for energy.

You can also take prescription medicines to help control your amount of blood glucose. Ask your doctor if that’s the right step.

The ADA says that you can lower your risk for type 2 diabetes by 58 percent through weight loss and physical activity. A loss of 10 to 15 pounds is an excellent start.

For more information, visit the National Diabetes Education Program and the American Diabetes Association.

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