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What Is Prediabetes, and Are You at Risk?

Healthy Lifestyle
Published: Feb. 17, 2020

 

Have you ever heard of “prediabetes”? Yes, it’s a real thing, and it’s a growing health issue in our country. It's estimated that 84 million American adults have prediabetes. In fact, 9 out of 10 people with prediabetes don’t even know they have it.  

 

How prediabetes develops

Prediabetes is a condition where blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be considered type 2 diabetes. Prediabetes occurs when your body's cells don't respond as they should to the insulin you produce to deal with blood sugar. In response, your pancreas produces more insulin.

If you have prediabetes, you're more likely to develop type 2 diabetes and have a heart attack and stroke.

 

Preventing prediabetes and type 2 diabetes

It's important to address prediabetes and prevent type 2 diabetes before it strikes. I often tell patients that making small changes – such as losing a small amount of your current body weight and adding a little more activity during the day – can reduce the likelihood of prediabetes turning into type 2 diabetes. Here's what else to consider.

Know the risk factors. Prediabetes doesn't always have obvious symptoms. In fact, you may not know anything is wrong until type 2 diabetes develops. Risk factors for prediabetes include:

  • Being overweight
  • Being age 45 or older
  • Having a parent or sibling with type 2 diabetes
  • Being physically active less than three times per week
  • Ever having gestational diabetes or giving birth to a baby over 9 pounds
  • Having polycystic ovary syndrome

Take an online prediabetes screening test. Taking this prediabetes screening test from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) can help you gauge your risk for developing this condition.

Go to your doctor and see if you have prediabetes. If your fasting blood glucose reading is less than 100 mg/dl, have your blood drawn yearly. If the blood glucose reading is over 100 mg/dl, discuss with your doctor what prediabetes is and how to prevent type 2 diabetes.

Reduce portion sizes of the foods you eat. Reducing portion sizes helps with weight loss. It's not necessarily what you eat that influences your risk of type 2 diabetes, but how much. Download and print this handy portion size guide to help determine the right amount to eat.  

Get moving! Current recommendations suggest you need to exercise 150 minutes per week, which is 30 minutes five days a week. Does that seem like a lot? Start slow and gradually work up the time you exercise. Start with a 10 minute walk and work up to 30 minutes. Increasing your physical activity will help prevent type 2 diabetes and reduce your risk for a heart attack or stroke. 

 

Need help?

If you have concerns about prediabetes or need assistance with nutrition or weight management, talk to your primary care provider. You can also contact the Methodist Center for Diabetes and Nutritional Health at (402) 354-8797 to schedule an appointment with a registered dietitian nutritionist.

More resources

Martha Nepper

About the Author:

Martha Nepper, PhD, RDN, LMNT, CDE, is passionate about healthy eating and nutrition. Her favorite part of being a registered dietitian nutritionist is seeing someone become healthier through better nutrition and adding more activity in their lives.

You can find Martha helping patients with healthier nutrition at the Methodist Center for Diabetes and Nutritional Health.

See More Articles by Martha Nepper