What is prediabetes?
Type 2 diabetes, the most common type of diabetes, develops when a person’s body doesn’t use the hormone insulin properly. Insulin helps your body absorb glucose and use it for energy.
If your body doesn’t make enough insulin or doesn’t use insulin properly, you have a condition called insulin resistance, which requires your body to produce higher levels of insulin. Over time, the body cannot keep up with the demand for extra insulin and type 2 diabetes develops.
“Prediabetes” is a term used to describe a medical condition in which a person is close to developing diabetes if he or she doesn’t change lifestyle and eating habits, among other things. Doctors often see it as a screening tool and an opportunity for a patient to turn his or her diagnosis around.
How is a prediabetes diagnosis determined?
Your doctor might screen you for diabetes if you are overweight or obese. For example, an A1C test, a blood test that shows average blood sugar level for the past three months, might show that you are at risk for developing diabetes.
An A1C test measures the percent of red blood cells that you have that are essentially coated with sugar. A normal A1C test is generally 5.7 percent or less. Meanwhile, “prediabetes” is usually if your A1C test is between 5.7 percent and 6.4 percent. And generally, an A1C test result of 6.5 percent or greater is thought to be diabetes.
Another measure that’s used to determine whether a person is at risk for developing diabetes is your fasting blood sugar levels. A fasting blood sugar of less than 100 is considered normal. A person is generally considered “prediabetic” if his or her fasting blood sugar is between 100 and 125. A person with a fasting blood sugar at 126 or higher would be considered diabetic.
What should a person do after a prediabetes diagnosis?
It is not inevitable that you will develop diabetes after being told you are prediabetic. Rather, a prediabetes diagnosis should be seen as an opportunity for intervention.
If you’re diagnosed in your family physician’s office, you could seek out help from an endocrinologist, a medical doctor who specializes in diseases and disorders related to hormones, including diabetes. An endocrinologist can run further testing and help you better understand the changes taking place in your body — and how you can turn them around.
There are medications that doctors can prescribe to help curb prediabetes. However, changing diet and exercise habits are essential.
For example, it’s important to get enough exercise. Each week, you should strive to get at least 45 minutes of exercise for five days a week. You can work your way up. You don’t have to run a marathon your first week. Rather, find something you enjoy and increase intensity along the way.
With diet, it’s important to avoid fried foods. Try to focus on fresh fruits and vegetables, including greens. The majority of carbohydrates that you eat should come from vegetables and fruits. Also, try to eat whole grain breads and brown rice, rather than white bread and rice. You could seek out help from a dietitian as well. Some insurance companies will cover a visit with a dietitian if you’ve been diagnosed with some level of diabetes.
You are your own health advocate, and as with any medical diagnosis, you should ask questions and ensure you understand what your primary medical professional has told you.
Source: Dr. Madona Azar, an endocrinologist at the Harold Hamm Diabetes Center; The Mayo Clinic; The American Diabetes Association; the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse