So your doctor told you had prediabetes… Now what?
While being delivered such news is never a fun ordeal, the good news is that living with prediabetes doesn’t have to suck.
In fact, many people have told me it was a blessing in disguise… Because being told they’re prediabetic was the wake-up call they needed to take their health seriously.
For others, it’s the permission to finally take care of themselves after so many years of caring for others.
And then there’s always a few skeptical ones who ask “But what’s the big deal? It’s not like I have diabetes”.
Contrary to what these people may tell you, prediabetes is a serious condition. If left unattended, it can progress into something much more severe (diabetes). However, if taken seriously, your prediabetes can be very well managed, and in some cases reversed.
The first step to doing this is better understanding the disease, in order to know what to act on.
In the following article, I’ll explain to you:
- What is prediabetes
- The symptoms of prediabetes
- The risk factors of prediabetes
- The actions you can take to manage your prediabetes and prevent it from turning into diabetes (because who wants to take pills for the rest of their life?)
What is prediabetes?
Prediabetes is a medical condition defined as having a blood sugar level (also referred to as blood glucose) above normal, but still below the threshold of diabetes.
I sometimes explain to my patients that it’s like the very early stages of diabetes. Not fully there yet, but on your way if you make no changes to improve your health (more on that later).
Left without intervention, prediabetics will likely develop diabetes within 10 years, along with its complications to the heart, kidneys, nerves, and eye sight.
Prediabetes is said to affect 1 on 3 Americans adults, which means 84 millions people.
That’s a whole lot of people.
While this is a scary statistic, prediabetes can fortunately be managed with lifestyle changes and even reversed.
Before we talk about how to better manage it, let’s look at how it is diagnosed, the symptoms, and the risk factors (that you can act on!).
How is prediabetes diagnosed?
Prediabetes is a condition where your body cannot metabolize glucose (sugar) correctly. Because your body is unable to lower your blood sugar to normal levels after a meal, your blood sugar remains elevated.
You can measure prediabetes with three different tests:
- The A1c test measures your average blood sugar levels over the last 3 months. People with values between 5.7% and 6.4% are considered to have prediabetes. Values over 6.5% indicate the presence of diabetes.
- The fasting plasma glucose is a test that checks your fasting blood sugar levels (fasting means you don’t eat nor drink for at least 8 hours). Values between 100 to 125 milligrams per deciliter (5.6 to 6.9 mmol/L) suggests the presence of prediabetes, while diabetes is diagnosed when your result is greater than or equal to 126 milligrams per deciliter (7.0 mmol/L). This test is usually confirmed with a A1c result.
- The oral glucose tolerance test checks your blood sugar levels before and two hours after you drink a concoction containing 75g of glucose. This test allows your doctor to see how your body processes glucose and sugar. Results greater than or equal to 200 milligrams per deciliter (11.1 mmol/L) suggest that the person has diabetes. Results between 140 and 199 milligrams (7.8 and 11 mmol/L) per deciliter are considered prediabetic values.
What is the cause for prediabetes?
Prediabetes and type 2 diabetes share the same underlying cause, with different degree of severity.
The problem is insulin resistance.
I will explain in greater detail the cause and consequence of insulin resistance in a later article. However, to sum it up, you have two hormones in your body, insulin and glucagon, that regulates your blood sugar in your body to keep it within a specific range.
Every time you eat, insulin is released from your pancreas. Insulin is responsible to taking the sugar/glucose in your blood and for directing it inside your cells. This allows blood sugar level to go back to normal, and for your cells to use this glucose as fuel to perform its functions.
In the presence of insulin resistance, your cells respond less well to insulin. It doesn’t matter how often insulin comes knocking on their door, it simply won’t open.
As insulin cannot take the sugar found in your blood into your cells, your blood sugar level rises.
Prediabetes doesn’t have any specific nor well defined symptoms. This is one of the reasons why the condition can go unnoticed for years, and it usually found by your doctor “by mistake” on a routine blood test.
Some prediabetics experience the same symptoms as people with diabetes, such as feeling fatigue, having blurred vision, feeling very thirsty, and urinating often. This comes to no surprise, as the underlying cause for both conditions is the same (insulin resistance).
On occasion, some people with prediabetes experience reactive hypoglycemia two to three hours after a meal. Hypoglycemia is also called low blood glucose or low blood sugar. It occurs when the level of glucose in your blood drops below normal.
Hypoglycemia in prediabetic people is a sign that there’s a problem with the insulin and glucose metabolism in their body.
If you have these symptoms and haven’t discussed this yet with your doctor, book an appointment with him/her soon to see if they are caused by prediabetes.
The earlier you catch it, the easier it is to manage… and prevent diabetes.
Risk factors for prediabetes
Prediabetes doesn’t simply pop out of nowhere. While there is still much to be discovered around the causes of this condition, certain risk factors have clearly been identified for this condition.
Some bad news: there are risk factors for prediabetes and diabetes that we cannot change.
The good news: there are more risk factors that CAN be changed to decrease your risk
Risk factors that you cannot change (unless you have a sex change maybe…?)
- Age over 40
- Male sex
- Being African-American, Hispanic, American Indian, Asian American or Pacific Islands
- Parents or Siblings with diabetes
- Gestational Diabetes
Risk factors that you can act on (a.k.a modifiable risk factors)
- Fasting blood sugar levels between 100 to 125 milligrams per deciliter (5.6 to 6.9 mmol/L)
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Overweight with a BMI over 25
- Waistline over 40 inches for men, and 35 inches for women
- Being sedentary.
- Interrupted sleep patterns, or work night shifts
How to decrease your risk and better manage your prediabetes?
As I’ve mentioned a few times throughout this article, prediabetes can be well managed and even reversed (yay!).
The medical way
It’s possible that your doctor prescribes you a medication called metformin to help you control your blood sugar levels.
While I am a pharmacist, I encourage making changes to your diet, weight and lifestyle FIRST before starting a drug. When you act on your modifiable risk factors, it can have a very positive impact on your prediabetes.
However, each case is different, therefore it’s important you discuss the pros and cons with your doctor about using or delaying the use of metformin.
If you are taking metformin or another drug for prediabetes, do not stop it without consulting your doctor first.
You heard this before, and you’ll hear it again… good health consists of :
- Eating whole foods,
- Sleeping well,
- Managing your stress,
- Not smoking,
- Being moderate with alcohol
- Maintaining a healthy body weight. I’m not teaching you anything new.
(Notice how most of these actions target your risk factors?)
This maddening yet simple health advice, that has been repeated to us by so many, is true for preventing not only diabetes, but also heart disease, cancer and many chronic diseases.
So, if this advice is considered a generally accepted truth, why don’t more of us follow it?
While there could be many reasons for this, I believe one of the reasons for this is that many of us don’t know where to start.
Change isn’t always easy, and often can be overwhelming.
(Should I sign up to the gym? Or maybe eat more veggies first? Put an alarm to be in bed by 10pm? Aaaaaaahhhh!)
How to avoid overwhelm and inaction
But here’s the thing, choosing to become healthier (and in your case managing your prediabetes) doesn’t have to be overwhelming.
Instead, if we simply focus on changing one habit at the time, we can still create a positive impact on our health, without going into a panic or frenzy.
It’s all about taking consistent baby steps.
And that’s is exactly why I created my free Starter Kit to Better Manage Your Prediabetes.
In my Starter Kit, I share with you a mini recipe book with 16 delicious and filling low-carb meal and snack ideas (no more wondering what the heck to eat!), and over 7 days, I coach you on how to make 7 healthy changes to your life. We go over topics like:
- Starting the day correctly with a balanced breakfast
- Moving that booty
- Meal planning
- Snacking on the go
- Staying hydrated
- Getting enough sleep
- Mindful eating
I don’t just give you information on these topics. I actually help you put them into action, so that you can positively impact your prediabetes and decrease your risk for getting diabetes.
If you’re ready to take control of your prediabetes, click here to sign up for my free Starter Kit to Better Manage Your Prediabetes today!
- Prediabetes affects 1 American adult on 3
- Prediabetes is serious condition, that when taken seriously, can be well managed and even reversed in some cases
- There are many risk factors to prediabetes and diabetes that you can act on
- My free Starter Kit to Better Manage Your Prediabetes can help you take action in the right direction
I hope this article has been helpful to you! Let me know in the comments below if you learned something new. And if you know a friend who will benefit from reading it, please share it with them!