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Prediabetes: What is it

What is Prediabetes?

Understanding Impaired Glucose Tolerance 

Also known as borderline diabetes, prediabetes is described as a precursor to diabetes. It is a warning sign that your blood sugar levels are too high-but not enough to be called diabetes.

A prediabetes diagnosis means you are on the verge of developing diabetes mellitus. It is a very common condition that according to authority statistics affects one in three Americans.

What Is A Prediabetic Condition?

People with prediabetes do not process glucose properly, leaving it to accumulate in the bloodstream rather than fuel cells. With prediabetes, the pancreas is unable to produce enough insulin to process the sugar in your bloodstream. It could also mean that your cells have become resistant to insulin.

Are You At Risk of Prediabetes?

Some people are more predisposed to prediabetes than others, often because of lifestyle and health differences.

  • Genetics – People whose family members have suffered from diabetes are at a higher risk of prediabetes compared to those without a family history of the problem.
  • Weight – Being overweight is a major risk factor for prediabetes as it means that the individual ingests loads of sugar and usually leads a sedentary lifestyle. Overweight people have much fatty tissue especially around the abdomen, which makes their cells even more resistant to insulin.
  • Sleep – People who do not get enough sleep carry a greater risk of prediabetes.
  • Race – African-American, Hispanic, Pacific-Islander and American Indian people tend to be diagnosed with prediabetes more than any other races and ethnicities in the world. This is because of their food culture and low physical activity among them.
  • Age – As you grow older, so does your chances of developing prediabetes. People who are 45 years or older are at a huge risk of the condition.

Gestational diabetes – Some women develop diabetes when pregnant. This condition known as gestational diabetes means that they are at a higher risk of prediabetes than the rest of the population.

Signs of Prediabetes

Warning Signs of Prediabetes

The sneaky thing about prediabetes is that there aren’t any obvious symptoms pointing to a serious problem. However, your body will present some warning signs:

  • A frequent need to pee
  • Feeling thirstier than usual
  • Increased fatigue
  • Rapid weight loss despite eating well
  • Feeling hungrier than usual
  • Blurred vision

Prediabetes Symptoms

Symptoms aren’t so obvious but there are some obvious signs that tell the doctor that you certainly have higher than normal blood glucose levels;

  • The most obvious symptom of prediabetes is darkened skin on the knees, elbows, armpits, and neck. This is a condition known as acanthosis nigricans where the dark patches have a thick, velvety texture. It could also mean you have prediabetes if your skin on the feet, legs, and elbows is often dry and itchy. This is because excess sugar in blood draws moisture from your skin.
  • People diagnosed with prediabetes often have swollen, bleeding gums because of the body’s inability to heal properly. Women with this condition have a higher tendency to contract urinary tract and vaginal infections.
  • Prediabetes is associated with low testosterone levels and this results in loss of libido. Damage to small blood vessels also interferes with the ability to have an erection.
  • There is usually tingling or numbness in the hands and feet of patients diagnosed with prediabetes. This is usually associated with nerve damage caused by excess glucose levels in the bloodstream.
  • People with prediabetes tend to fall asleep soon after eating. The food we ingest should be converted into glucose about an hour but for people with this condition, there is a surge sugar levels which triggers the release of excess insulin. However, the hormone doesn’t suffice to stabilize glucose, the effect of which is drowsiness.

Causes of Prediabetes

As a precursor to type 2 diabetes, the causes of prediabetes are quite obvious. Poor diet with excess sugars, a lack of exercise, and obesity are the greatest culprit. However, people of normal weight shouldn’t assume that they aren’t predisposed to prediabetes. As seen in the symptoms, prediabetes may also cause one to lose weight. The only way to be sure is to get tested by a doctor. The most common causes of prediabetes are:

Prediabetes A1C

High glucose levels cause HbA1c or glycated hemoglobin; a condition where hemoglobin combines with glucose in the blood. High levels of glycated hemoglobin mean you have prediabetes and are at high risk of developing complications.

Prediabetic Diet

Poor diet – The western diet or average American diet features lots of refined sugars and carbs in food. According to the American Heart Association, this is the number one cause of prediabetes among other health conditions.

Sedentary lifestyle

Today’s lifestyle allows for minimal movement. More people are taking cars to work, working from home and have the privilege of ordering meals and other services straight to their homes. The lack of movement slows down the metabolism which gradually leads to elevated blood sugar levels that signal prediabetes.

Prediabetes Diagnosis

There are several methods of diagnosing prediabetes. At the doctor’s office you may get one of the following tests done:

A1C test

This is a measure of your average blood glucose levels in the last 2 to months. If the results show a result of 5.7% to 6.4% the doctor will declare that you have prediabetes. Many people prefer the A1C test to others as it doesn’t require prior fasting.

Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (OGTT)

To tell if you have prediabetes using the OGTT, the doctor will measure your blood glucose levels before giving you a special sweet drink and then repeat after two hours. It helps your doctor determine how your body breaks down glucose. Diabetes is diagnosed at blood sugar levels equal to or greater than 200 mg/dl. Patients are deemed to have prediabetes if the results are 140 mg/dl to 199 mg/dl. An A1C greater than or at 6.5% means you have diabetes.

Fasting Plasma Glucose (FPG)

As the name suggests this is a test to check your fasting glucose levels. You are hereby required not to eat or drink anything-save for water for at least 8 hours before testing. It is usually done first thing in the morning and the doctor will give a positive diagnosis for people with 100 mg/dl to 125 mg/dl. Through this test, diabetes is diagnosed at blood glucose greater than or equal to 126 mg/dl.

Prediabetes Treatment

How to Treat Prediabetes

A diagnosis with prediabetes doesn’t mean you will inevitably get diabetes type 2. There are many treatment/management approaches that could stave off the symptoms and save you from complications.

Prediabetes Management

When diagnosed with prediabetes, the best thing is to make deliberate changes to help normalize blood glucose levels. Your primary care provider will encourage you to eat healthier foods, exercise more and carefully monitor your blood sugar at home.

Foods For Prediabetes

After a diagnosis, part of your management plan should involve consuming more whole grains. Whole grain pasta, brown rice, steel-cut oats and other grains should make part of your daily nutrient intake. You should also eat at least three pieces of whole fruit daily as well as increased consumption of nuts. Foods with a low glycemic index are your best bet for preventing your condition from becoming diabetes.

Reversing Prediabetes

With proper management, you can indeed reverse prediabetes and continue enjoying a life without complications. Make sure to return to your doctor after a few months for further tests to see if your blood sugar has decreased. It takes commitment and discipline to normalize blood sugar levels but it is possible no matter what age or risk factors at the time of diagnosis.