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 risk for diabetes and making life choices that can reverse it. But what does prediabetes mean? Does it mean that you have diabetes? And is prediabetes less serious since it’s only “pre” disease?
What is Prediabetes?
Prediabetes is just what it sounds like—it is the condition that occurs when blood sugar levels aren’t high enough to qualify as diabetes, but are higher than normal. Depending on when your blood sugar is high, prediabetes is also known as Impaired Glucose Tolerance (higher than normal blood sugar after a meal) or Impaired Fasting Glucose (higher than normal blood sugar in the morning before eating).
Testing for Prediabetes
Three tests can be used to diagnose prediabetes: the AIC test (also called HbA1C, hemoglobin, or glycosylated hemoglobin test), a fasting blood glucose test, or the oral glucose tolerance test.
The A1C test measures how much sugar is attached to hemoglobin, a protein in the blood. This number can give you an idea of how your blood sugar level has been averaging over the last 2-3 months. You do not have to be fasting for this test. An A1C value of 5.7-6.4% is diagnostic for type 2 diabetes. Another A1C test to confirm the finding is recommended but depending on your history may not be required.
During a fasting blood glucose 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. A measurement of 100-125 mg/dL is diagnostic for type 2 diabetes. It is recommended that this test is repeated to confirm the diagnosis.
For an oral glucose tolerance test, blood glucose levels are checked twice, once after a night of fasting and then two hours later after drinking a glucose-rich drink. A blood sugar level of 140-199 mg/dL two hours after drinking the glucose drink is diagnostic for type to diabetes.
For all of these tests, the higher the number the greater the risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the near future.
Why Prediabetes is a Serious Problem
Prediabetes, is a serious chronic health condition that can increase your chances of developing diabetes, as well as other chronic diseases.
In prediabetes, high blood sugar levels are caused by insulin resistance, whereby the cells of the body are unable to use insulin correctly. Insulin resistance is a risk factor for metabolic syndrome, which can increase the risk for cardiovascular disease. People with metabolic syndrome have two times the risk for heart disease.
Many people with prediabetes have other risk factors associated with metabolic syndrome, such as low good cholesterol (HDL), high triglyceride levels, high blood pressure, and high waist circumference..
What You Can Do To Treat Prediabetes
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, so that you can delay or even prevent the onset of diabetes.
The two key lifestyle changes that help manage and eliminate prediabetes are regular exercise and weight loss. Just 30 minutes of moderate exercise per day and 5-10% weight loss can reduce your risk of progressing to type 2 diabetes by over 58%.
Regular exercise doesn’t necessarily mean running a marathon or swimming for miles a day. Moderate exercise is any activity that raises your heartbeat to its “target” rate. Ask your physician for advice on how to determine your target heart 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 sugar levels.
Exercise such as taking a brisk, thirty minute walk 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 an exercise specialist nutritionist or personal trainer to help you get started.
Setting realistic goals for your weight loss and writing down your nutritional and workout plans will allow you to hold yourself accountable and stick to your goals. Tracking your food intake, weighing yourself regularly, and managing your calorie intake can help you lose those unwanted pounds.
While a prediabetes diagnosis can be scary, it can also be 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 in the future.