You’ve heard of diabetes, but do you know about prediabetes?
Prediabetes is when your blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not elevated to the point of diabetes. Prediabetes indicates a person has insulin resistance — meaning your cells are becoming resistant to insulin, the hormone our bodies use to regulate blood sugar.
Insulin tells your body to remove sugar out of your blood so your body can use the sugar for energy. If you have prediabetes, this means your pancreas is still able to produce enough insulin to overcome your insulin resistance. But, if your body gets to a point where it can’t produce enough insulin, then you develop Type 2 diabetes.
How do I know if I am pre-diabetic?
There usually are no symptoms of prediabetes. Occasionally, people may notice weight gain around the middle and a darkening of the skin around the neck and armpits (acanthosis nigricans).
Since there are no real warning signs, it is all the more important to have regular check-ups with your doctor. At these appointments, your doctor will do blood work to test your blood sugar levels, which will alert your doctor to any inconsistencies or signs of prediabetes.
This test is called a glycated hemoglobin, or HbA1c. The normal level for a non-diabetic person is around 5.7. People with prediabetes often fall in the range of 5.7-6.4.
When does prediabetes become Type 2 diabetes?
If you experience symptoms like increased thirst, frequent urination, fatigue or even blurred vision, this can signify that you have moved from prediabetes to Type 2 diabetes. Talk to your doctor if you notice any of these signs.
If your regular bloodwork shows a HbA1c of higher than 6.4, your doctor may diagnose you with Type 2 diabetes. Treatment for Type 2 diabetes varies, but often includes a combination of lifestyle changes and medication.
What can I do to reverse prediabetes and prevent diabetes?
Prediabetes can be treated with lifestyle changes. Poor diet, lack of exercise and smoking are all risk factors for prediabetes and can contribute to worsening of the condition because they increase your insulin resistance. As we talked about earlier, insulin resistance is the reason your body isn’t able to break down the sugars you consume.
If you have prediabetes or are worried about diabetes, it’s important to focus on living a well-rounded, healthy lifestyle. Here are a few simple tips to get you started:
Eat a healthy diet
Eat a diet low in processed carbohydrates (i.e. white foods like potatoes, white rice and pasta) and consume most of your carbohydrates through vegetables, fruits and whole grains. Consider meeting with a dietitian who can help you meet your weight loss and healthy eating goals.
Exercise at least 30 minutes a day and avoid prolonged sitting.
Talk with your doctor about ways to help you quit smoking.
Prediabetes can be a challenge, but it’s one you can overcome by making healthy choices. By eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly, you can improve your chances of reversing prediabetes and staving off Type 2 diabetes.
Consult with your doctor to come up with a game plan that works for you.
Don’t have a doctor? Find one near you.
About the author
Grace Glausier is the manager of digital content strategy for Baylor Scott and White Health. A graduate of Baylor University, she is passionate about connecting people through powerful stories and empowering individuals toward better health.