Did you know that many people with elevated blood sugars have no symptoms? What if a person's blood sugar level is not high enough to be called diabetes, but is "borderline?" Does being pre-diabetic put a person's health at risk? What exactly is pre-diabetes and who is at risk for getting it?
Pre-diabetes means that your blood sugar level is higher than normal, but it's not high enough to be called diabetes. If someone has pre-diabetes, they are likely to become diabetic in the next 10 years - and, the long-term damage of diabetes - especially to their heart and blood vessels - may already be starting.
However, pre-diabetes does not automatically have to become diabetes. Finding out you have pre-diabetes can actually be a chance for you to improve your health. If you have pre-diabetes, the good news is that you can do something about it. Studies have shown that people with pre-diabetes can prevent or delay the development of diabetes by losing weight and exercising for at least 30 minutes every day. For some people with pre-diabetes, making this change early can return high blood sugars to normal. The Diabetes Prevention Program in Tuba City can help you to make these positive changes and to feel better.
Read on to find out more about pre-diabetes and what you can do about it.
What are the risk factors for developing pre-diabetes?
Weight. Being overweight is a leading risk factor for pre-diabetes.
Inactivity. The less active you are, the greater your risk of pre-diabetes.
Age. The risk of pre-diabetes increases as you get older, especially after age 45.
Family history. The risk of pre-diabetes increases if a parent or brother or sister has diabetes.
Race. Although it's unclear why, people of certain races - including African-Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders - are more likely to develop pre-diabetes.
Gestational diabetes. If you developed gestational diabetes when you were pregnant, your risk of later developing diabetes increases. If you gave birth to a baby who weighed more than 9 pounds, you're also at increased risk of diabetes.
Polycystic ovary syndrome. For women, having polycystic ovary syndrome - a common condition where someone has irregular menstrual periods, excess hair growth and obesity - increases the risk of diabetes.
Inadequate sleep. Research suggests that regularly sleeping fewer than 5.5 hours a night might increase your risk of pre-diabetes.
Could I have pre-diabetes and not know it?
You definitely can. People with pre-diabetes often do not have any symptoms. In fact, there are many people that have diabetes and don't know it because symptoms develop so slowly that people often don't realize that anything is different with their bodies. Some people have no symptoms at all.
Symptoms of diabetes include increased thirst, a need to urinate more often, blurred vision, or a feeling of being tired most of the time for no real reason. If you are having any of these symptoms or if you have any of the risk factors for pre-diabetes listed above, let your doctor know. Your doctor may want to test you for pre-diabetes.
What are the tests the doctor will order to see if I have pre-diabetes?
Recommended pre-diabetes testing includes the following:
Hemoglobin (A1C) test. This blood test shows what your average blood sugar level has been over the past two to three months. It works by measuring the percentage of blood sugar attached to hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying protein in red blood cells. The higher your blood sugar levels, the more hemoglobin you'll have with sugar attached to it. An A1C level between 5.7 and 6.4 percent is considered pre-diabetes. A level of 6.5 percent or higher on two separate tests means you have diabetes.
Certain conditions can make the A1C test inaccurate - such as if you're pregnant or have an uncommon form of hemoglobin.
Fasting blood sugar test. A blood sample will be taken after you fast (have had nothing to eat or drink) for at least eight hours, or overnight. With this test, a blood sugar level lower than 100 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) is normal. A blood sugar level from 100 to 125 mg/dL is considered pre-diabetes. This is sometimes referred to as impaired fasting glucose (IFG). A fasting blood sugar level of 126 mg/dL or higher may mean diabetes.
Oral glucose tolerance test. A blood sample will be taken after you fast for at least eight hours, or overnight. Then you will drink a sugary solution and your blood sugar level will be measured again after two hours. A blood sugar level less than 140 mg/dL is normal. A blood sugar level from 140 to 199 mg/dL is considered pre-diabetes. This is sometimes referred to as impaired glucose tolerance (IGT). A blood sugar level of 200 mg/dL or higher with symptoms of high blood sugar may mean diabetes.
If your blood sugar level is normal, your doctor may recommend a screening test to recheck every year, or less often, depending on your risk. If you have pre-diabetes, further testing may be needed. If you have pre-diabetes, you are also at increased risk for having heart disease or stroke, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.
Treatment and drugs
As mentioned earlier, if you have pre-diabetes, the good news is that you can do something about it. Losing weight and exercising for at least 30 minutes every day can prevent or delay diabetes. For some people with pre-diabetes, making this change early can return high blood sugars to normal. The following are guidelines from the American College of Endocrinology to treat pre-diabetes:
Eat healthy foods. Choose foods low in fat and calories and high in fiber. Focus on fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Eat a variety of healthy foods to help you meet your goals.
Stop the Pop (and other sugary drinks). Drinking soda, juices, fruit-punch, energy drinks, and other sweetened beverages raise your blood sugar and put on excess weight. Cutting down on these drinks, and stopping completely, can help you lose weight and decrease the risk of pre-diabetes. Drinking water is healthiest of all, but you may choose occasional sugar-free beverages as a better choice too.
Get more physical activity. Try your best to get 30 to 60 minutes of moderate physical activity at least five days a week. Take a brisk daily walk. Ride your bike. If you can't fit in a long workout, break it up into smaller sessions spread throughout the day.
Lose excess pounds. If you're overweight, losing just 5 to 10 percent of your body weight - only 10 to 20 pounds if you weigh 200 pounds - can reduce the risk of someone with pre-diabetes of developing diabetes. This can be done through a healthy diet and moderate exercise. Don't worry if you can't get to your ideal body weight. A loss of just 10-15 pounds can make a huge difference.
Take medications as needed. Sometimes your doctor might suggest medication to help bring down your blood sugar level if you are at high risk of diabetes. In other cases, medications to control cholesterol and high blood pressure may be needed.
Prevention is Key
Healthy lifestyle choices can help you prevent pre-diabetes and its progression to diabetes even if diabetes runs in your family. You should eat healthy foods, get more physical activity and lose those extra pounds.
There are resources that can help you meet your goals! You may contact the Diabetes Prevention Program at the Tuba City Regional Health Care Corporation at (928) 283-1429 for more information on the various programs they offer to help you meet your personal health and wellness goals.