If you or a loved one has recently been diagnosed with prediabetes, you may have a lot of questions. Understanding a prediabetes diagnosis is the first step to taking control of your diabetes and making life choices that combat the very real damage of this disease. But what does prediabetes mean? Does it mean you’re actually diabetic, or just almost diabetic? And is prediabetes less serious since it’s only “pre” disease?
What is Prediabetes?
Prediabetes is just what it sounds like—it’s the condition that occurs when a patient’s blood glucose levels aren’t high enough to qualify as diabetes, but are higher than normal. Prediabetes is also known as Impaired Glucose Tolerance or Impaired Fasting Glucose (IGT/IFG).
Testing for Prediabetes
Three tests can confirm a prediabetes diagnosis: the fasting glucose tolerance test, the oral glucose tolerance test, and/or the AIC test (also called HbA1C, hemoglobin, or glycosylated hemoglobin test).
During a fasting glucose tolerance test, you will be asked to fast for a night, and your blood glucose levels will be checked in the morning before you eat anything.
For an oral glucose tolerance test, your blood glucose will be checked twice, once after a night of fasting and then two hours later after drinking a glucose-rich drink.
The A1C test is more straightforward: you can eat and drink normally before the test, during which your doctor will simply take a blood sample and send it to the lab for analysis.
Why Prediabetes is a Serious Problem
Prediabetes, even though it seems less serious than full-blown diabetes, is a serious chronic health condition that increases your chances of developing severe organ-threatening diseases. Even though you may not have full-blown diabetes, you are already probably experiencing serious side effects from prediabetes. When you have prediabetes, you are almost 50 percent as likely to develop cardiovascular disease than non-sufferers (almost the same as those with full-blown diabetes). And as blood glucose levels continue rise, your body may develop increased insulin resistance and pancreatic stress.
And, of course, those with prediabetes are at an increased risk for type 2 diabetes in the future. About one in 10 prediabetes sufferers will develop diabetes over the course of the three years following diagnosis.
What You Can Do To Treat Prediabetes
Prediabetes and diabetes are different in a critical way: prediabetes is much easier to combat, treat, and even reverse. Think of your prediabetes as a warning sign: it’s your body’s way of telling you to slow down and pay attention to your lifestyle and die, so that you can delay or even prevent the onset of diabetes. With so much at stake, a prediabetes diagnosis should be your first step towards recognizing your lifestyle problems and taking control of your future.
The two key lifestyle changes that help prediabetes sufferers are regular exercise and weight loss. You may immediately have a negative reaction to both of these lifestyle changes. Perhaps you’ve been trying to lose weight for a long time with no success. Or maybe you’ve always hated exercise and aren’t particularly athletically inclined. Prediabetes is an excellent opportunity to overcome your negative lifestyle habits and make simple changes that can save your life. You can’t have weight loss without exercise, and your much more likely to exercise as you lose weight and have positive experiences with becoming active.
Getting the Minimum Exercise
Regular exercise doesn’t have to mean running a marathon or swimming for miles a day. In fact, long-term moderate exercise has been proven to be much more effective at reducing prediabetes’ effects than one time extreme exercise. But how do you know when you’re performing moderate exercise? It all lies in your target heart rate. Moderate exercise is any activity that raises your heartbeat to its “target” rate. For prediabetes sufferers, moderate exercise for just thirty minutes a day can prove very beneficial by increasing your metabolism, helping you lose weight and reducing your blood glucose levels.
The best source for your target heart rate is your doctor, but another good rule of thumb is to take your current age and subtract it from 220 to find your maximum heart rate. So if you’re forty years old, you’re maximum heart rate is around 180. Then, take 50 percent to 85 percent of that maximum heart rate, and you’ll have your target heart rate range. If your maximum heart rate is 180, then your target heart rate range is between 90 to 153 beats per minute.
Getting your heart rate up in your target range is easier than you think! Even simple exercises such as brisk walking for thirty minutes will accomplish your initial workout goals. If you suffer from arthritis, then swimming is an excellent alternative to walking and high impact exercise. If you’re struggling to find an acceptable workout, consulting a nutritionist or personal trainer just once can work wonders for giving you workout ideas.
It’s no secret that weight loss will improve your prediabetes prognosis. The secret to real weight loss is not in your body—it’s in your mind. Setting realistic goals for your weight loss and writing down your nutritional and workout plan allows you to hold yourself accountable and stick to your goals. For prediabetes, a weight loss of just five to 10 percent improves your chances of avoiding type 2 diabetes by over 50 percent! And once you lose that first five percent, you’ll find that your motivate will skyrocket and you’ll be empowered to keep at your plan.
While a prediabetes diagnosis can seem like devastating or scary, it’s actually a chance to become a true master of your health and lifestyle. Prediabetes is a warning—a very serious one—that allows you to overcome negative lifestyle choices and genetic predispositions that could lead to serious health problems and even death.