What You Need to Know About Prediabetes

Diabetes is a common health condition that most people have heard of or may be familiar with, but are you familiar with prediabetes? Prediabetes is a serious health condition in which blood sugar levels—similar to diabetes—are higher than normal, but not quite high enough to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes.

Approximately 84 million Americans—more than 30%—have prediabetes, and of those individuals with prediabetes, 90% don’t even know they have it. If you have prediabetes, you have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

There is some good news, however. If you already have prediabetes, you can still make lifestyle changes that can delay or even prevent type 2 diabetes and other serious health issues.

What Causes Prediabetes?

Your pancreas makes insulin, a hormone that allows blood sugar into cells to use as energy. If you have prediabetes, the cells in your body don’t respond as they normally should to insulin. So your pancreas makes more insulin to offset this and try to make the cells respond the way they’re supposed to. Eventually, your pancreas isn’t able to make enough insulin and your blood sugar rises, setting the stage for prediabetes—and possibly type 2 diabetes later on.

What Are the Symptoms & Risk Factors of Prediabetes?

It’s possible to have prediabetes for years and yet have no clear symptoms. So it often goes undetected until a more serious health problem like type 2 diabetes surfaces. Make sure to talk to your doctor about getting your blood sugar tested if you have any of the following risk factors for prediabetes:

  • Are overweight
  • Are 45 years or older
  • Have a parent, brother, or sister with type 2 diabetes
  • Are physically active less than three times a week
  • Have ever had gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy) or have given birth to a baby who weighed more than nine pounds
  • Have polycystic ovary syndrome
  • Are in one of the following higher risk race/ethnic groups:
    • African American
    • Hispanic/Latino American
    • American Indian
    • Pacific Islander
    • Asian American

Getting Tested

Taking a simple blood sugar test will let you know if you have prediabetes. Ask your doctor to see if you should be tested, especially if you have any of the risk factors previously mentioned.

How Can I Prevent Type 2 Diabetes?

If you have prediabetes and are overweight, you can lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by losing just a small amount of weight and by getting regular physical exercise- at least 150 minutes a week of brisk walking or a similar activity.

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