Almost 24 million American adults are living with diabetes, according to figures released last month by the International Diabetes Federation. But what may be even more alarming is that there are additionally about 79 million Americans with a condition called prediabetes — and many are not conscious of it.
Prediabetes means that while your blood sugar levels are higher than standard, that level isn’t high enough to justify a diabetes analysis. Nevertheless, a prediabetes analysis means it’s time for action to prevent diabetes.
“In straightforward terms, there’s a gap between what we call diabetes, which is a fasting blood sugar of 126 and above, and normal, which is less than 100 fasting,” clarifies Vivian Fonseca, MD, a professor of medicine and pharmacology and chief of endocrinology at Tulane University Health Sciences Center in New Orleans. “In between, you’ve impaired fasting glucose. Should you do a glucose tolerance test, and you are in the gap, you have prediabetes. You’re at risk for getting diabetes in the future and you are also at risk for heart disease.”
Studies have also found that prediabetes may be more common in men than in girls.
Type 2 Diabetes: Prevention
If you are told your blood sugar is abnormally high, you have only had a red flag waved in front of you. You are being warned that unless you make some changes in your life today, your future will likely contain a diabetes analysis.
“Walking 30 minutes a day and reducing weight by 5 percent can reduce the risk [of getting type 2 diabetes] by 60 percent over three years,” says Dr. Fonseca. While there are drugs that have the same effect, lifestyle change is less expensive and has fewer side effects, Fonseca says.
Cutting your weight is crucial. “One of the links with obesity is that fat causes a mild low grade inflammation throughout the body that contributes to heart disease and diabetes,” Fonseca clarifies. Without making any changes, you could develop type 2 diabetes within 10 years of first developing prediabetes.
Type 2 Diabetes: Who Should be Tested?
Prediabetes is a “quiet” affliction, says Fonseca. While some people may experience symptoms of diabetes including fatigue or increased urination, most people’s blood sugar grows without any outward indications at all. This implies you mightn’t understand you should be examined for prediabetes — and even if you’re screened, your doctor mightn’t give you all the advice you need to prevent it.
Hence, diabetes experts developed standards for those who should be tested. The American Diabetic Association recommends that any adult age 45 or older should be tested for diabetes and prediabetes.
The ADA also urges that any adult under age 45 who is overweight and has at least one of the following risk factors should be tested:
- Family history (particularly parent or sibling with diabetes)
- Physically inactive lifestyle
- Native American, African American, or Hispanic heritage
- Past gestational diabetes identification
- Arrival of a baby over nine pounds in weight
- High blood pressure or treatment for high blood pressure
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) diagnosis
- Dark, velvety rash around the armpits or neck
- History of heart disease
If your evaluation reveals you have prediabetes, you ought to be tested again in one to two years, depending in your physician’s recommendations.
Type 2 Diabetes: Types of Tests
There are two tests used to screen for diabetes and prediabetes:
- Fasting plasma glucose: a test of your blood after you haven’t eaten for eight hours (generally overnight)
- Oral glucose tolerance test: a comparison of your blood taken first after eight hours without food (fasting) and then two hours later when you have consumed a sugary drink given to you by the lab technician.
If you fit the screening standards listed above, make an appointment to get tested as soon as possible. It could be the initial step toward preventing the progression of type 2 diabetes. Triangle Doctor can help with your diabetes problems!