Why You Shouldn't Brush Off a Prediabetes Diagnosis
By Rosemary Fair-Covely, DO, Virtua Endocrinologist
When it comes to your health, you sometimes get a warning that you’re on the verge of a problem BEFORE it becomes a full-blown health issue. A prediabetes diagnosis is just such a warning.
An estimated 88 million people in U.S. have prediabetes, also called impaired glucose tolerance. This means one in three American adults have higher than normal blood glucose levels that make them more likely to develop type 2 diabetes.
If you’ve been diagnosed with prediabetes, heed the warning. It’s not diabetes—yet. But, if left unchecked, it can progress to diabetes, and that diagnosis brings complications that include heart disease, kidney disease, nerve issues, blindness, and even amputation.
How prediabetes is diagnosed
A doctor diagnoses prediabetes by taking a fasting blood glucose level. Normal levels are below 100mg/dl, and levels in the range of 100 to 125mg/dl indicate prediabetes.
Your doctor also will check blood glucose levels two hours after a meal. In that test, a level under 140mg/dl is normal, whereas blood glucose between 140 and 200mg/dl appears in people with prediabetes. People with levels higher than 200mg/dl have diabetes.
You may not know if you should be tested, especially if you have no family history of diabetes. But, if you’re overweight (body mass index greater than 25) and age 45 or older, you should schedule it. Doctors are finding, in general, that diabetes is happening at a younger age—even striking during the teen years, and it’s related to higher obesity rates.
Half of people with prediabetes will progress to type 2 diabetes within 10 years. Screening patients for prediabetes is an early intervention aimed at stopping the progression to type 2 diabetes. It has helped so much that approximately 30 percent of those with impaired glucose revert to normal glucose measurements.
How to prevent prediabetes from becoming diabetes
The best way to prevent prediabetes from progressing to type 2 diabetes is to control your weight and watch your diet. Within two to three months, patients who follow this advice can revert to having a normal glucose levels.
The American Diabetes Association advises losing 7 percent of your body weight, which for most is 10 to 15 pounds, and exercising moderately five days a week for 30 minutes.
To get your diet and exercise in check, it’s best to schedule an appointment with a registered dietitian who can help you create a healthy eating plan that works for you. You also should start an exercise program that you can stick to, that you enjoy, that works with your body, and that fits into your schedule.
With the right lifestyle changes, you can get your blood glucose levels back into a normal range quickly and avoid full-blown type 2 diabetes and all of its related health issues.
If getting prediabetes in check is your goal, Virtua Health can help you get there.
To schedule an appointment with a Virtua endocrinologist, call 888-847-8823. Or, you also can request an appointment with a Virtua registered dietitian or certified diabetes educator for guidance on creating a healthy eating plan customized to your needs.
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Updated March 11, 2021