As we Americans continue to grow overweight and obese chronic diseases like diabetes are becoming increasingly prevalent. You may have a close relative with diabetes and have wondered, am I next? Your doctor may have diagnosed you with pre-diabetes telling you to lose weight, eat healthy, and exercise.
What is pre-diabetes?
Pre-diabetes is a condition in which blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to be considered diabetes. To be precise, this means a fasting blood sugar of 100-125 mg/dL. Once this level has gone over 126 mg/dL, on two separate occasions, the diagnosis of diabetes can be made. If left untreated most people with pre-diabetes will develop diabetes. A simple blood test at your Family Doctor’s office can determine if you have pre-diabetes.
What causes pre-diabetes?
Obesity and a sedentary lifestyle (no or irregular physical activity) is the most common cause of pre-diabetes. When the body becomes resistant to insulin, or the pancreas stops producing insulin pre-diabetes and diabetes develop. Obesity and a sedentary lifestyle contribute to the process because when we don’t use our muscles, our cells decrease the amount of insulin receptors that are available to transport the glucose. Insulin is a hormone secreted by the pancreas that acts as a gate for glucose (sugar) to enter our cells. The extra glucose then stays in the blood stream causing the major problems of diabetes. Including: blindness, kidney failure, nerve pain, loss of sensation, increased risk of infection, heart disease and stroke.
Is pre-diabetes a genetic disease?
Yes. If you have a first degree relative with diabetes your risk of pre-diabetes is higher.
Are there other risk factors for pre-diabetes?
Risk factors for pre-diabetes and diabetes include: obesity, fat distribution (majority of fat content in the abdomen), inactivity, advancing age, family history, race, and history of gestational diabetes (during pregnancy) or giving birth to a baby weighing more than 9 lbs.
What are the symptoms of pre-diabetes?
Usually those with pre-diabetes have no symptoms, but may start to exhibit symptoms of diabetes. These include: blurry vision, numbness in the feet, fatigue, excess thirst and urination, increased hunger, slow healing sores, frequent infections, heart disease, and areas of darkened skin.
Can I prevent pre-diabetes from becoming diabetes?
Yes! Research has shown that those with pre-diabetes can lower their risk of diabetes by losing 7% of their body weight (15 lbs if you weight 200 lbs), and by moderate exercise, like brisk walking, for 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week.
My grandmother is 91 years old and has lived with type 2 diabetes most of her adult life. Because she takes her medicine and is very careful about what she eats, she has not experienced the harmful side effects of this chronic disease and is enjoying her 90’s! Early detection and consistent treatment with medication and lifestyle is key to controlling this disease.