Most people are at least somewhat aware of the growing epidemic that diabetes, particularly type 2 diabetes, has become. It’s hard to turn on the news or browse the internet without stumbling upon a report or article containing some new detail in the ongoing study of diabetes and how it to manage it. But, with nearly 30 million Americans currently affected by it, including more than 25 percent of adults over age 65, it’s no wonder diabetes gets so much attention. Diabetes, of course, involves the body’s use of insulin. When your body can’t properly produce and use insulin, it can lead to high levels of blood glucose, which can lead to everything from heart disease and kidney damage to vision loss and stroke. All of these are things everyone would rather avoid, which is why if you find out you have prediabetes, it’s important to act quickly.
Prediabetes is a condition where a person’s blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not high enough for that person to be diagnosed with diabetes – at least, not yet. “Prediabetes puts a person at an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke,” said Blount Memorial registered dietitian Angie Tillman. “Approximately 84 million American adults have prediabetes – which is more than one in three people – according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), but one of the most concerning things about it is that about 90 percent of people who have it don’t even realize it. If prediabetes isn’t caught and addressed, it will eventually develop into full-blown diabetes, which according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), happens in almost 70 percent of cases,” Tillman explained. “The good news is that prediabetes can be reversible if you’re willing to make some lifestyle changes,” she added.
“First, it’s important to look at the risk factors for developing prediabetes,” Tillman said. “Obviously, if you have a family history of type 2 diabetes, you’re already at an increased risk, but if you are age 45 or older with a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or more, you’re at risk, too. Those who live a more sedentary lifestyle and exercise fewer than three times a week also are at risk for prediabetes, as are women who have a history of gestational diabetes during pregnancy. People actually can have prediabetes for years and not know it because they show no clear symptoms. They only realize they have it once problems begin to arise, which is why it’s important to get regular blood sugar check with your physician if you have any prediabetes risk factors,” she added.
If you are diagnosed with prediabetes, it’s time to take action. “The two key things you can do if you’re diagnosed with prediabetes are to try to lose a little weight and increase your physical activity,” Tillman said. “Focus on a weight loss goal that is attainable for you. Even losing between five and 10 percent of your body weight can prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes. As for exercise, aim for moderate activity 30 minutes per day, five days a week, even if it’s just brisk walking. The important thing is to be realistic and start small. Look for an activity you can build upon and gradually work up to approximately 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week,” she said.