There are plenty of things in life that we like to see rising: hot air balloons, your bank account balance, tomato plants growing up their trellises. But none of us wants to see our blood sugar levels creeping up. If yours rises too high, your doctor may tell you that you have prediabetes.
But what do you do with a condition like this? Luckily, you can control or delay a full-on diabetes diagnosis. You can play a proactive role in helping control prediabetes and manage your blood sugar with the help of a medical professional.
"The condition can be managed and controlled," says Karmeen Kulkarni, Scientific Affairs Director for Abbott's diabetes care business. "And if glucose levels are in the normal range, with lifestyle management the onset of type 2 diabetes can be delayed by three to four years."
What Is Prediabetes?
Prediabetes means your blood sugar is above the normal range, but not high enough to indicate that you have diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA). One in three Americans has prediabetes, and nine out of 10 of these don't even know they have it, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Among those with prediabetes who do nothing for prevention, as many as 30 percent will develop type 2 diabetes — when your body doesn't make or use insulin well — within five years.
But you don't have to go down that path. A prediabetes diagnosis is a serious wake-up call, but you still have the chance to take action right away to help prevent prediabetes from becoming type 2 diabetes.
Prediabetes is a condition that, with the right changes to your diet and exercise regimen, can be managed.
Prediabetes or Diabetes: What's the Difference?
In both prediabetes and type 2 diabetes, your body becomes insulin-resistant. This means the hormone insulin isn't working well to usher sugar (also known as glucose) from your blood into your cells for energy. Having a higher amount of sugar in your blood can have an effect on many parts of your body, according to the ADA.
There are three ways your doctor may test your blood sugar to determine if you have prediabetes or actual diabetes:
1. Fasting plasma glucose test. Your blood will be drawn after eight hours of no food or drink. A result of 100 to 125 milligrams per deciliter means you have prediabetes. Above that number indicates actual diabetes.
2. A1C test. This non-fasting test shows your average blood sugar level over the last two to three months. A result between 5.7 percent and 6.4 percent indicates prediabetes, while a higher number points to diabetes.
3. Oral glucose tolerance test. This test requires fasting overnight, and then your blood sugar level is checked before and two hours after you drink a sweet drink. A result of 140 to 199 milligrams per deciliter means you have prediabetes, while 200 milligrams per deciliter or higher suggests diabetes.
Prediabetes: How to Manage It
It can be an emotional blow to be diagnosed with prediabetes, but it's not insurmountable. "The positive aspect of the diagnosis," says Kulkarni, "is there's more attention paid to one's health, lifestyle and overall well-being."
Here's how to control prediabetes to avoid full-blown diabetes:
- Aim for 7 percent weight loss. It doesn't take a lot of weight loss to improve your blood sugar. Losing 7 percent of your body weight, which is 14 pounds for a 200-pound person, lowers your risk of type 2 diabetes by 58 percent, according to the ADA. Losing weight works because it helps your body better use insulin, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDKD). A healthy diet that can help you lose weight includes fruits, vegetables, lean protein, such as chicken and turkey without the skin, non-fat or low-fat dairy foods, like yogurt and milk, and grains, such as oats, quinoa and rice, suggests the NIDDKD.
- Get physical. The impact of exercise on blood sugar has been shown time and time again in medical studies. A review published in the Journal of Physical Activity & Health found that people with prediabetes who became physically active slowed the progression of the disease and had better oral glucose tolerance, fasting blood sugar and A1C results. Going for a brisk walk or getting other moderate exercise, such as bike riding or swimming, may also help lower your blood sugar level, notes the ADA. Aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise five days a week — but remember that not all exercises are suitable for everyone. Before engaging in any physical activity, check with your doctor about how much and what kind of physical activity is right for you.
Facing a looming type 2 diabetes diagnosis may really get you down. But rather than letting negative emotions rule, put your energy into making changes that will improve your health. When you're backed by an encouraging support system and are armed with the facts, you can proactively work toward living your best, healthiest life.