Prediabetes: On the Rise in the US
What is prediabetes, and are you at risk?
Prediabetes is a serious condition in which the body has a higher level of sugar or glucose in the bloodstream than normal, however it’s not quite high enough to be considered full-on diabetes. A very high percentage rate of those who are diagnosed with prediabetes ultimately end up developing Type 2 diabetes, which also puts them at risk of heart disease, stroke, blindness, hearing loss, kidney issues, and skin conditions. Since there are no symptoms, most people who are prediabetic do not know they are.
Over the past 20 years, the rates of prediabetes been increasing rapidly. In the US alone, 96 million people over the age of 18 are prediabetic – that’s about 1 in 3 people. Even children and teens are experiencing a huge increase in a diagnosis of prediabetes, which was just under 12% of children in 1999. That figure has risen to 28% of children 20 years later and the rate continues to climb.
The good news? You can prevent prediabetes. Making lifestyle changes such as a healthy diet and adding physical activity are simple ways to lower blood sugar and avoid developing diabetes.
What is diabetes?
The words “diabetes mellitus” come from the Greek word diabetes, which means “to pass through.” Mellitus is a Latin word that means sweet, or honey. When a person’s blood sugar levels are abnormally high, the body isn’t able to produce enough insulin to control blood sugar and move it to the cells and the brain, which use glucose for energy. This leaves the body with too much excess sugar in the blood. Sometimes the body is not able to use the insulin anymore, which is called insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is brought about by obesity, a high carbohydrate diet, and an inactive lifestyle. Some signs of insulin resistance are a waist of 40” or more in men and 35” or more in women; high blood pressure, 130/80 or higher; fasting glucose level over 100 mg/dL; fasting triglyceride level over 150 mg/dL; HDL cholesterol level under 40 mg/dL in men and 50 mg/dL in women; skin issues such as rashes and skin tags.
What are the risk factors for prediabetes?
Make sure to visit your doctor for screenings, especially if you are over 40 and are overweight or obese. Your doctor will test for your blood sugar levels to confirm if you are prediabetic. Since there are typically no common signs or symptoms, most people who are prediabetic do not know. Here are some of the traits that can increase your risk of prediabetes:
- Above-normal body weight
- Inactivity, exercising less than 3 times per week
- Being over the age of 45
- History of gestational diabetes (during pregnancy)
- Parents or siblings with type 2 diabetes
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
- Race and ethnicity can play a role
What are the signs and symptoms of diabetes?
Since symptoms may go unnoticed, check with your primary care physician regularly. Here are some of the signs and symptoms to watch out for:
- Increased thirst
- Increased appetite
- More tired than usually
- Changes in vision, blurry vision
- Numbness and tingling in hands and feet
- Sores and wounds are slow to heal
- Dry skin issues
- Unexplained weight loss
- More frequent urination
What can you do to reduce the risk of prediabetes, which can develop into type 2 diabetes?
Making lifestyle and activity changes can help you reduce and even eliminate the risk of blood sugar issues. Here are some things to incorporate into a new healthy lifestyle:
- Work on losing weight. Even a small amount can help. Even losing 10-15 pounds can make a huge impact. Maintain a healthy body weight.
- Get in 30 minutes of moderate physical activity five days a week, ie. Walking, biking, swimming.
- Cut out sugary drinks and sodas and substitute water instead.
- Increase the amount of vegetables and fiber that you eat, which can help stabilize your blood sugar.
- Cook healthier versions of your favorite foods by cutting back on salt, cutting out fast food and processed foods, saturated fats, and sugary, high-carb foods.
- Check in with your doctor to measure your blood sugar levels each year.
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