What Is Prediabetes?
Also known as borderline diabetes, prediabetes is essentially a warning sign potentially leading to a full-fledged diagnose. Diabetes is a condition describing the insufficient use or absence of insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas, and is responsible for assisting glucose entry from the bloodstream into cells following carbohydrate ingestion. When insulin is ineffective, glucose remains in the blood and causes high blood glucose or sugar levels. Individuals with prediabetes start to experience higher glucose levels, though not high enough to diagnose diabetes. The following blood tests differentiate between normal, prediabetes, and diabetes blood sugar levels, marked in milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) unless noted otherwise.
Fasting Plasma Glucose Test
During this test, individuals are absent of food intake for at least eight hours and is generally performed after an overnight fast.
• Normal: Less than 100, or encouraged to be within 70 and 100
• Prediabetes: 100 to 125
• Diabetes: Greater than 126
Oral Glucose Tolerance Test
Also recognized as OGTT, individuals will be in a fasted state as mentioned above. A sugary, or glucose, beverage will then be consumed and a blood test will be taken two hours later.
• Normal: Less than 140
• Prediabetes: 140 to 199
• Diabetes: Greater than 200
Also known as glycated hemoglobin, average blood sugar, and HbA1C, this blood test measures average blood sugars for up to three months.
• Normal: 5.6% or less
• Prediabetes: 5.7 to 6.4%
• Diabetes: 6.5% or greater on two separate occasions
What to Watch For
Although lifestyle greatly impacts diabetes risk, the following risk factors should also be recognized and considered:
Overweight and Obesity
Being overweight or obese is a significant risk factor for developing diabetes. Additionally, using waist circumference (WC) can further guide an unhealthy weight status, a WC over 40 inches in males and over 35 inches in females increases diabetes risk.
A family history or genetic predisposition of diabetes increases an individual's risk.
Gestational Diabetes History
Defined as the development of diabetes in pregnancy, gestational diabetes can increase the likelihood of developing diabetes following pregnancy. Women who birth a baby weighing over nine pounds also raises their risk.
Individuals aged 45 years or older are at an increased risk of developing diabetes.
African-American, Hispanic, American Indian, Asian-American, and Pacific Islander races and ethnicities have a greater risk of diabetes.
Along with risk factors and aside from hiking blood sugars, the following signs and symptoms may be apparent and should be looked out for:
A lack of energy may be a side effect of prediabetes, especially as the body continues to lose more glucose in the urine rather than utilized for energy. Blurred vision can also follow fatigue and energy loss.
Increased Urination and Thirst
Since the body's cells are not receiving the glucose, it remains in the blood and contributes to high blood sugar. In turn, the body increases urine production, causing frequent urination, leading to fluid loss and dehydration, and ultimately to frequent thirst.
A condition known as acanthosis nigricans may be a likely sign of prediabetes. The condition is characterized by dark skin patches with thick, velvety textures formed in body folds and creases, including the neck and armpits.
How to Control Prediabetes
Considering overweight and obese individuals dramatically raise their risk of diabetes, controlling weight can control prediabetes. In fact, research shows that reducing body weight by 5 to 10 percent can cut diabetes risk in half! For an individual weighting 200 pounds, that translates to 10 to 20 pounds, which may be achieved with the additional preventative steps detailed below.
Diet may be the most impactful factor when it comes to developing diabetes. A nutritious diet can not only keep weight managed, but helps control and stabilize blood sugars. Swap out refined products, sugars, and high-fat, processed meats with whole grains, fresh produce, lean produce, and nuts and seeds. And in addition to monitoring food, try to not drink your calories!
Paired with a well-balanced and nutritious diet, regular exercise can facilitate weight loss and help control prediabetes. Exercise can also help reduce blood sugar levels, as active muscles obtain the glucose for energy which reduces glucose in the blood. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends at least 150 minutes of aerobic activity each week, while strength or resistance training should be included at least two days of the week.
Although stress is a normal part of everyday life, too much and unmanaged stress can impact blood sugars. Stress hormones can spike blood glucoses directly or individuals dealing with high stress can take to stress eating and alcohol abuse. Manage stress by practicing yoga and meditation, exercising, listening to music, reading a book, or taking a warm bath.
Obtain Adequate Sleep
Interestingly, sleep deprivation can increase the risk of developing diabetes, while poor blood glucose control can lead to trouble sleeping. The National Sleep Foundation recommends adults achieve seven to nine hours of quality sleep each night. So gain control of sleeping patterns by sticking to a regular bedtime, turning off all electronics, and making sure the room is dark and cozy.