While much research is being conducted into rising rates of diabetes mellitus around the globe, in the US an approximate 85 million people have prediabetes. Prediabetes is a condition where a person’s blood sugar is elevated outside the normal range but do not meet the criteria for diabetes. It is very important to identify these patients because, if steps are taken early, progression to diabetes can be averted or slowed.
Often, patients with prediabetes experience no symptoms at all so sometimes it is difficult to diagnose. We need to screen all people at risk including those with a family history of diabetes, are obese or overweight, are physically inactive, ever had gestational diabetes or polycystic ovarian syndrome, have central or abdominal obesity, and belong to a race or ethnicity that has a higher incidence (African American, Latino, American Indian, Alaska natives and some Asian Americans). Screening is done with a blood test.
What should you do if you are diagnosed with prediabetes?
- Make dietary changes. A referral to a nutritionist may be beneficial to get you on the right track. Many people think that avoiding sweets is the only step they need to do. But, a healthy diet is much more complicated and there are many different kinds of carbohydrates that need to be taken into account.
- If you are obese or overweight, you should aim to lose weight. This should be done in small steps. For example, if a person needs to lose 50 pounds, it is much easier to lose 10 pounds five times than lose 50 pounds. Set up small goals and work for them. As you work to a healthy weight, remember that losing 10-15% of your body weight provides major health benefits.
- Become more active. Increasing physical activity has been shown to provide health benefits regardless if a person is at a healthy weight or not. While many people may not have time to head to the gym, some good research shows that the benefits of exercise can be seen with several smaller increments of activity rather than a longer work-out session. So if you don’t have time to hit the treadmill for 30 minutes, you can do it for 5 minutes at a time throughout the day. The goals should be 30 minutes of activity at least 5 days a week. Additionally, many experts now recommend adding resistance or weight training into your exercise regimen.
- See your doctor. You need to see your doctor on a regular basis to follow-up on your progress. It is very important that if you do develop diabetes, treatment be started at the earliest stage to prevent complications.
- Get support. Enlist your family and friends to join your healthy lifestyle. It is much easier to succeed when you are not surrounded by obstacles.
As more people are diagnosed with prediabetes, more studies are needed into the prediabetic state and how management can be implemented early to halt the development of diabetes. Care teams need to be established to support these patients in their goals, both in providing educating and support. While it is good to have experts tell us how to inject insulin and possible complications, it would be better to prevent the need for such medications.
Until then, if you are concerned about prediabetes, learning about how diabetes evolves over time is a great way to empower yourself. Free video education from premier diabetes specialists, specially designed for regular people, is available on demand. Watch now >
About the Author
Linda Girgis MD, FAAFP is a family physician practicing in South River, New Jersey and Clinical Assistant Professor at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. She was voted one of the top 5 healthcare bloggers in 2016. Follow her on twitter @DrLindaMD.