What is Pre-diabetes?

With more than 40 million Americans already diagnosed, pre-diabetes is becoming increasingly common. For many of these individuals, developing type two diabetes is a natural progression after having pre-diabetes.

In the past, pre-diabetes was referred to as "borderline" diabetes or a person was told their blood sugar was "a little high." However, what pre-diabetes really means is that a person has more than the normal amount of glucose (sugar) in the blood, which places them at high risk for developing type two diabetes. Persons with pre-diabetes also are at increased risk for heart attack, stroke and nerve damage.

A normal blood sugar level should be relatively low (less than 99 milligrams per deciliter, or mg/dl) in the morning (since the body has been fasting all night) and a bit higher (less than 140 mg/dl) two hours after a meal. A person may be diagnosed with pre-diabetes if their blood sugar is significantly higher than these normal levels during these times.

Type two diabetes is more likely to develop when the following are present: pre-diabetes; a family history of diabetes; age 45 or older; being overweight, especially around the middle; an inactive lifestyle; have high LDL (bad) cholesterol and low HDL (good) cholesterol; persons of Hispanic, African, Asian, Native American and Pacific Islander descent; women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (a hormonal imbalance among women of childbearing age); women who have had gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy); and/or women who have delivered a baby weighing more than nine pounds.

Some risk factors cannot be changed. However, several are within one's power to control and modify. If a person already has been diagnosed with pre-diabetes, making lifestyle changes can delay or prevent the onset of type two diabetes.

If overweight, losing just five to seven percent of their body weight either by exercise or diet has been shown to prevent or delay type two diabetes.

Exercise and healthy eating are a must. A person at risk should adopt a heart-healthy meal plan such as eating healthy portions of complex carbohydrates like fruit, vegetables, whole grain breads, rice and pasta and avoiding daily consumption of high calorie, high fat, concentrated sweets like soda, candy and pastries. Eating sweets in moderation and watching portion sizes of breads, rice and pasta also are ways to control weight and prevent type two diabetes.

Exercising is one of the best ways to prevent or manage the disease. A person should aim for 30 to 60 minutes of exercise most days of the week. To be successful, one should choose activities they truly enjoy and keep it fun!

Anyone with risk factors outlined above and/or with a pre-diabetes diagnosis is encouraged to call the Diabetes Education Program at Flagstaff Medical Center at (928) 773-2249 to get a schedule for our diabetes prevention classes.

Elaine Laemmrich, R.N., B.S.N., is a diabetes educator at FMC. Is there a health topic you'd like to know more about? Please write to Mountain Medicine, c/o Flagstaff Medical Center, Public Relations, 1200 North Beaver Street, Flagstaff, AZ 86001, or visit FlagstaffMedicalCenter.com.

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