The latest research reports that more than 40 million Americans have “pre-diabetes”. Pre-diabetes (or Impaired Glucose Tolerance) is a combination of factors that you may have right now that puts you at a heightened risk for real, irreversible Type 2 diabetes in ten years. It is usually a combination of inactivity, a fat-laden diet, obesity and genetics that is responsible. When one has pre-diabetes, the level of glucose in the blood is over the normal limit but still has not reached diabetic limits yet.
Pre-diabetes is not diabetes per se and if you are diagnosed with it, it is not a death sentence. With exercise, weight loss and a healthy diet, pre-diabetic people can and have managed to bring down their glucose levels and have escaped the threat of an insulin-dependent life.
You won’t necessarily know if you have pre-diabetes because it is asymptomatic. There are no big telltale signs that point toward it but it is of crucial importance to be tested for condition as soon as possible so you can curb it right away. If nothing is done during the pre-diabetic stage, it is very likely that the blood sugar levels will go awry and needlessly boost a person’s risk of heart disease and eye damage, as well as a host of other difficult and expensive consequences.
Should you be screened for pre-diabetes? If you answer yes to any of the following questions, you should talk to your doctor about getting screened: Do you have relatives that have heart disease or Type 2 diabetes? Are you overweight? Do you have high blood pressure? Are you part of a “high-risk” group (African American, Latino and Asian)? Do you have more stored fat around your belly than your hips? If you’re male, you should be checked if your waistline is more than 40 inches and if you’re female, if your waistline is more than 35 inches. If you’ve had children, did you have diabetes when you were pregnant or deliver a baby that weighed more than nine pounds?
If you think you are pre-diabetic, your doctor will recommend that you go for a fasting plasma glucose test (FPG). To prepare for the FPG, you will be asked to fast for 10 hours before a blood sample is drawn first thing in the morning before breakfast. The normal level is below 100 mg/dl. If your have an FPG level between 100 and 125 mg/dl, you are considered pre-diabetic. But if your blood glucose level is 126 mg/dl or more, you can be considered a diabetic already.
To back up the FPG result, your doctor may ask you to take an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) that is similar to the FPG. This time however, you will be asked to drink a glucose-rich beverage and your blood glucose level measured 2 hours after. If normal, your blood glucose would be below 140 mg/dl two hours after the drink. If pre-diabetic, the blood glucose level is between 140 to 199 mg/dl. If your figure is above 200 mg/dl or more, you are considered diabetic. You should also have your cholesterol levels checked. High levels of triglycerides in the blood and low levels of “good” HDL cholesterol do not only put you at risk for diabetes, but also heart disease and certain cancers.
Knowing you are pre-diabetic is a blow for many people, but there is no reason to give up hope yet. More studies show that pre-diabetics who are aware of their condition can do a number of things that can prevent or delay the development of diabetes. The first thing to take care of is really an intense modification in lifestyle. Starting a modest exercise routine like walking for half an hour every day can trigger weight loss. Both exercise and weight loss are proven methods that slow the development of diabetes by returning blood glucose levels to normal in some people. You need not even reach your ideal body weight to reap benefits – a 15% reduction in weight can cut your risk of having full-fledged diabetes by almost 60 percent! This little change is twice as effective as taking medication. Start educating yourself about your condition. See your doctor regularly and meet with a registered dietician and an exercise specialist. Ask your doctor about some supplements like aspirin and niacin that you may benefit from.