Can you afford diabetes?

Prediabetes: Heed This Health Warning

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.

Nearly 80 million people in U.S. have prediabetes, which means they have higher than normal blood glucose levels that make them more likely to develop type-2 diabetes.

“Prediabetes is called impaired glucose tolerance, and it’s a strong warning to heed,” explains Virtua endocrinologist Rose Mary Fair-Covely, DO. “It’s not diabetes, but if left unchecked, it can progress to overt diabetes.”

Dr. Fair-Covely explains that a doctor can diagnose prediabetes by taking a fasting blood glucose level. Normal levels are below 100mg/dl, and levels in the range of 110 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 be unsure whether 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, it’s time to schedule that test. “We’re finding, in general, that diabetes is happening at a younger age – even striking during the teen years,” notes Dr. Fair-Covely, who says it correlates to higher obesity rates.

“Approximately 50 percent of people with prediabetes will progress to type-2 diabetes within 10 years,” she says. “Screening patients for impaired glucose tolerance is an early intervention to reduce the progression to type-2 diabetes. It has helped so much that approximately 30 percent of those with impaired glucose can revert back to normal glucose measurements.”

The best way to prevent prediabetes from progressing to type-2 diabetes is to control your weight and watch your diet, says Dr. Fair-Covely. “Within two to three months, patients who follow this advice can revert back to having a normal glucose curve.” This means that women who have just found out they have prediabetes can still take charge of their health. 

To reduce your risk of developing diabetes by 58 percent, the American Diabetes Association advises losing 7 percent of your body weight, often just 10 to 15 pounds, and exercising moderately five days a week for 30 minutes.

If you have been diagnosed with prediabetes, Dr. Fair-Covely encourages you to see a nutritionist and 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.

Updated June 6, 2016