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Prediabetes: 1 in 3 Have This Serious Condition

If the road ahead went off a cliff, you’d turn around in time. That’s the upside of a prediabetes diagnosis. Finding out you have this silent disease gives you time to turn around and avoid serious complications and the more life-threatening diagnosis of type 2 diabetes.

An estimated 1 in 3 Americans has prediabetes, and more than 84 percent are completely unaware because it causes no noticeable symptoms. You can feel perfectly fine and still have prediabetes. Meanwhile damage is occurring inside your body.

What is Prediabetes?

Prediabetes is a serious health condition in which blood sugar levels are higher than normal, just not as high as with type 2 diabetes. If it’s not addressed, prediabetes puts you at risk for developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

If you have prediabetes, cells in your body don’t respond normally to insulin, which is key to the process of turning blood sugar into energy. To compensate, your pancreas makes more insulin and your blood sugar rises – eventually to the level of type 2 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes is more serious condition and can affect every major organ in the body. Complications include kidney failure, blindness and nerve damage sometimes leading to leg, foot or toe amputation. It’s also been found in some studies to double the risk of depression.

How is Prediabetes Diagnosed?

Fortunately, a simple blood test can determine if you have prediabetes. Several risk factors identified by the Centers for Disease Control can help you and your provider determine if you should be tested. These include:

  • Being overweight
  • Being 45 years or older
  • Having a parent, brother, or sister with type 2 diabetes
  • Being physically active less than 3 times a week
  • Ever having gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy) or giving birth to a baby who weighed more than 9 pounds
  • Race/ethnicities at higher risk include African Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, American Indians, Pacific Islanders, and some Asian Americans

The good news is a diagnosis of prediabetes gives you an opportunity to avoid developing type 2 diabetes. Just losing a modest amount of weight (10 to 14 pounds for a 200-pound person) and getting regular physical activity (30 minutes a day, five days each week) can help prevent prediabetes from progressing to type 2 diabetes.

That’s why it’s a good idea to talk to your provider if you have any risk factors for prediabetes. Together you can determine if you should be tested and what steps to take.

Gabriel Youssef, MD

Gabriel M. Youssef, MD is a Family Medicine provider at Steven's Creek Family Medicine.

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