Prediabetes: A wake-up call

Prediabetes means that your blood sugar level is higher than normal, but it’s not yet high enough to be classified as type 2 diabetes. However, if you do nothing, prediabetes is likely to become type 2 diabetes in 10 years or less.

Unfortunately, many people who believe they’re “borderline diabetic” or have “a touch of diabetes” think they’re safe. In many cases, however, some long-term damage can be taking place, especially to the heart and circulatory system even before you’re diagnosed with diabetes.

The silver lining? Prediabetes can be an opportunity for you to improve your health, because progression from prediabetes to type 2 diabetes isn’t inevitable. With healthy lifestyle changes — such as eating healthy foods, including physical activity in your daily routine and maintaining a healthy weight — you may be able to bring your blood sugar level back to normal.

To find out if you’re at risk, your doctor might order a blood test. For women in their 40s and 50’s, a blood sugar test every three years (some doctors recommend every year) starting at age 45 is as important as regular mammograms and bone density screenings. You might want to ask your doctor about starting earlier if you have a family history of diabetes, ever had gestational diabetes or have high blood pressure or high cholesterol.

Prediabetes may be diagnosed through either of three different tests:

  • Hemoglobin A1c (measures long-term blood sugar), if levels are 5.7 to 6.4 percent
  • Fasting blood sugar between 100 and 125
  • Two-hour glucose test between 140 and 199 after a glucose challenge.

What can you do if you have prediabetes?

Lose a few pounds. To prevent diabetes, it’s important to keep your weight in check. Dramatic weight loss isn’t always necessary. Losing as little as 7 percent of your body weight (12-14 pounds for a 200-lb person) can make a big difference.

Eat a low-calorie, low-fat diet. Eat mostly fresh fruits and vegetables, whole-grain breads and cereals, skim milk and yogurt, and lean meats. Limit soda, sweets, snack foods, fruit juices and alcohol. Special “diabetic” or dietetic foods are not necessary.

Walk briskly or do moderate-to-intense exercise at least 20 minutes every day. Not a walker? Then swim, dance, lift weights or do other activities that keep you moving. Lifting light weights and doing activities that develop your muscles can boost your metabolic rate and help your body burn extra calories even when you’re at rest.

Lifestyle changes are critical. While there are drugs that can lower your blood sugar, lifestyle changes actually work best — lowering your risk of developing full-blown diabetes by more than 50 percent. They can help to improve your heart and blood pressure, reduce your cholesterol and lower your risk of some cancers – not to mention help you look and feel better.

See Lose Weight, Feel Great and Eat to Beat Diabetes for more information. If you need one-to-one nutrition counseling, find a certified diabetes educator to help guide your choices. Baptist Health offers diabetes education and nutrition counseling for everyone from children to new moms to adults. Call 904.202.2140 for details.

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