Do you have prediabetes? If so, you are not alone.
According to the Joslin Diabetes Center, there are about 54 million people in the United States who do. If you, a friend, or relative has recently been diagnosed with prediabetes, you probably have lots of unanswered questions and concerns.
Although prediabetes is not an immediate life-threatening diagnosis, it can lead to more serious health concerns if it’s not addressed properly. Because of this, prediabetes may affect your ability to buy a life insurance policy, depending on a few factors.
We’ll explain everything you need to know about prediabetes so you can make informed decisions about your health and insurance, or guide friends or family members who may be at risk.
First, Who is at Risk for Prediabetes?
It’s common to doctors to screen for prediabetes in people over the age of 45 who are also overweight. Overweight people who are under the age of 45 are also at risk if they have a family history of diabetes or a history of vascular disease.
Certain ethnic groups are more prone to developing prediabetes. These ethnicities include:
- Asian Americans
- African Americans
- Hispanic Americans
- Native Americans
According to a 2014 National Diabetes Statistics Report conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, these ethnic groups are twice as likely to get prediabetes than non-Hispanic white adults.
Overweight women with polycystic ovary syndrome should be tested for prediabetes. If you have an impaired glucose tolerance, high blood pressure, and HDL cholesterol levels or triglyceride levels do not fall within a healthy range, then you are a candidate for a prediabetes diagnosis.
If you fall under any of these categories, you should consult with your doctor about getting a prediabetes screening. The Centers for Disease Control estimates nine out of ten people with prediabetes do not know they have it.
Overweight adults over the age of 45 are not the only age group at risk; in 2012, 1.7 million people ages 20 and older were diagnosed.
How is Prediabetes Diagnosed?
Your body makes a natural hormone in your pancreas called insulin.
Insulin controls your blood sugar levels by absorbing carbohydrates and turning them into glucose, which gives you energy. If your body does not properly produce or regulate your insulin levels, you are at risk for diabetes.
Prediabetes means you are a borderline diabetic and on the path towards type 2 diabetes. According to the American Heart Association, people with prediabetes will likely develop diabetes within ten years of their diagnosis. These people also have an increased risk for strokes and heart disease.
Your doctor can determine if you have prediabetes by performing a blood test. There are three blood test options and depending on your doctor; you might take one or more of the following:
1. Fasting Plasma Glucose Test
You cannot eat for a minimum of eight hours before your blood gets drawn for this test. Normal blood sugar levels fall below 100. If your blood sugar is between 100 and 125 then you have prediabetes. Any blood sugar levels higher than 126 qualify you for a diabetes diagnosis.
2. Oral Glucose Tolerance Test
An oral glucose test gets performed after a fasting glucose test. After the blood gets drawn from your first test, you drink a sugar solution provided by your doctor. Two hours after the liquid is consumed, you’ll take a second blood test.
If your blood sugar is less than 140 after the second test, then you fall within a normal range. Blood sugar levels higher than 200 means you have diabetes. If your blood sugar is between 140 and 199 after the second test, then you have prediabetes.
3. Hemoglobin A1C Test
The hemoglobin A1C test is also known as the average blood sugar test.
It shows your average blood sugar levels for the last two or three months to diagnose diabetes or prediabetes. Doctors also use this test for people already diagnosed with diabetes to determine if the condition is under control.
Normal results show 5.6% or less. Prediabetes falls in the 5.7% to 6.4% range, and diabetes is anything over 6.5%.
How to Prevent Prediabetes From Becoming Diabetes
If you test positive for prediabetes, then you are on the verge of developing diabetes. You can use your blood test results to determine what end of the spectrum you are on, and how close you are to getting diabetes.
According to the American Diabetes Association, diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States.
Adults with diabetes have a 50% higher risk of death than those who do not. Diabetes can also lead to blindness, kidney failure, strokes, heart disease, and amputation of your lower limbs such as toes, feet, or legs.
These statistics and information are alarming, but they convey the importance of doing everything possible to prevent prediabetes from becoming diabetes. Prediabetes is not a death sentence, and you can make lifestyle changes to delay or even prevent diabetes.
According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Diseases, people with prediabetes who changed their lifestyle reduced their risk of diabetes by 34%. Adults over the age of 60 who made lifestyle changes lowered their risk of diabetes by 49%. People who lost 15 pounds in their first year with prediabetes minimized their chances of developing type 2 diabetes in the next three years by 58%.
Losing weight will help lower your risk of developing diabetes.
The best way to lose weight is by monitoring your portion control and counting calories. Stay away from fried foods and instead eat meals which are broiled. Eat more fish, chicken, and lean cuts of beef.
Reduce your meat consumption as well by replacing it with fruits, vegetables, and starches.
Physical activity will also help you lose weight and minimize your chances of getting diabetes. Exercise also helps use the insulin produced in your body by converting your food to energy. By doing so, your blood glucose levels will remain lower. If you’re new to exercise, start slow by walking 30 to 60 minutes every day until you’re ready to do more.