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Prediabetes: A Silent but Serious Health Warning

Prediabetes: A Silent but Serious Health Warning

If the road ahead went off a cliff, you’d turn around in time. That’s the upside of getting a diagnosis of prediabetes.  Finding out you have prediabetes gives you time to turn around and decrease your risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the future, as well as heart disease and stroke. An estimated 1 in 3 Americans has prediabetes, and more than 84 percent are completely unaware because it causes no noticeable symptoms. You can feel perfectly fine and still have prediabetes.

Meanwhile damage is occurring inside your body.

Prediabetes is a serious health condition in which blood sugar levels are higher than normal, But not high enough to be considered having diabetes. If it’s not addressed, prediabetes puts you at risk for developing type 2 diabetes in the future. If you have prediabetes, cells in your body don’t respond normally to insulin, which is key to the process of turning blood sugar into energy. To compensate, your pancreas makes more insulin to overcome the insulin resistance, and your blood sugar rises – resulting in a diabetes diagnosis.

Type 2 diabetes can affect every major organ in the body.  Complications may include kidney disease, blindness, heart disease and stroke, and nerve damage sometimes leading to leg, foot or toe amputation.

Fortunately, a simple blood test can determine if you have prediabetes. Several risk factors identified by the American Diabetes Association can help you and your provider determine if you should be tested.

These include:

  • Race/ethnicities at higher risk include African Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, American Indians, Pacific Islanders, some Asian Americans
  • Being over the age of 40
  • Having a family history of diabetes
  • Having Gestational Diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy) or giving birth to a baby who weighed more than 9 pounds.
  • Being overweight
  • Not being physically active

The good news is a diagnosis of prediabetes gives you an opportunity to take steps to avoid developing type 2 diabetes. For some people with prediabetes, early intervention such as lifestyle changes of weight loss of 5-7 percent along with 30 minutes of daily activity 6 days a week may return blood glucose (sugar) levels to a normal range.

Often times there are no clear symptoms of prediabetes so you may not know that you have it. That’s why it’s a good idea to talk to your provider if you have any risk factors for prediabetes. A diagnosis of prediabetes doesn’t mean you will develop type 2 diabetes, but together with your health care provider you can determine what steps you can take to be a ‘healthier you’.  

(Deb Bronson, Diabetes Education at CHI St. Alexius Health Williston)