Prediabetes: Recognizing the Risk of Type 2 Diabetes

More than 86 million people in the United States ages 20 and older have prediabetes, a precursor for Type 2 diabetes. Because symptoms of prediabetes tend to be discreet, most individuals don’t realize they’re at risk of developing the disease until it’s too late.

National Diabetes Month helps educate people of all ages on how to better manage the risk for diabetes and encourage those living with the disease to learn more about how they can lead the healthiest and happiest life possible.

What is Prediabetes?

A prediabetes diagnosis is given when blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to be diagnosed as a person with Type 2 diabetes. A HgbA1C (A1C) blood test can determine if a patient is at risk; levels between 5.7 and 6.4 percent determine a prediabetes diagnosis. Another determinant is a fasting blood sugar level between 100 and 125 mg/dL. The American Diabetes Association recommends between two to four A1C tests a year for those managing the disease.

What is Type 2 Diabetes?

Type 2 is the most common form of diabetes, occurring for 90 to 95 percent of cases in the US. It occurs when the body cannot produce enough insulin or the insulin is not able to efficiently open cells to store excess blood sugar. Imagine the cells of the body as locked doors, Type 2 diabetes is a result of not having enough keys (insulin) or keyholes (cells) to properly store excess blood sugar, known as glycogen. This occurs for a variety of reasons, one being an “over-used” pancreas producing extra insulin to make up for the over-consumption of carbohydrates, coming from starches, complex sugars and simple sugars.

Managing the Risk: Controllable Lifestyle Choices

Nearly 37 percent of Michigan adults have prediabetes and more than 12 percent have been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. Of the list of risk factors, some are uncontrollable, including age, race, genetics and medical history. However, there are many risk factors that are manageable.

Here are a few ways to manage the controllable risk factors:

  • Find a Support System: Finding motivation to develop healthier habits alone can be challenging. Recruit a team of health care experts, family members and friends to set lifestyle goals together and keep each other accountable.
  • Eat Healthy, Watch Portions: A balanced, nutritious diet helps maintain glucose levels and can aid in accomplishing weight loss goals. Incorporating healthy portions of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and heart healthy fats into a diet is essential for managing the risk of Type 2 diabetes.
  • Get Moving: Exercise not only helps an individual lose weight and gain muscle, but lowers blood sugar levels and boosts the body’s ability to use insulin properly. Adults should aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day, five days a week.
  • Get Rest: Americans today get 40 percent less sleep than the body needs to function at its best. Chronic sleep deprivation can lead to weight gain, high blood sugar and hormone imbalance. Adults should aim for seven to nine hours of shut-eye per night.
  • Stress Less: According to the American Diabetes Association, long-term stress can cause long-term high blood glucose levels. Managing stress is different for every individual; exercising, meditation and deep-breathing exercises are a few ideas to explore.
  • See the Doctor: Establishing a relationship with a primary care physician or an endocrinologist can help an individual manage their risk for developing Type 2 diabetes. It can also help those living with the condition receive necessary health assessments and care.

Photo Credit: Denise Chan

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