Why you need to be educated on prediabetes now

A diagnosis of prediabetes gives you a chance to change the future. Learn the risk factors today to impact your health tomorrow.

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Use these tips to avoid prediabetes and live your healthiest life.

If you have prediabetes, your blood glucose levels are higher than normal, but not yet high enough to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Although not everyone with prediabetes develops type 2 diabetes, many people will. It is important to know if you have prediabetes because research shows that some long-term complications associated with the disease (such as cardiovascular problems and nerve damage) may begin during prediabetes.

Risk factors
Like type 2 diabetes, prediabetes can occur without you knowing, so be aware of your risk factors and get tested regularly. This is especially crucial if you have prediabetes as a result of “metabolic syndrome.” This means you also have high blood pressure, high levels of ldl “bad” cholesterol and triglycerides, low levels of hdl “good” cholesterol, and a tendency toward carrying extra weight around your middle.

The risk for type 2 diabetes increases with age, so the Canadian Diabetes Association (CDA) recommends screening by testing fasting plasma glucose for everyone once they reach age 40, and every three years after. If you have risk factors that increase the likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes, you should be tested more frequently or start regular screening earlier.

The good news
Research shows that if you take steps to manage your blood glucose levels when you have prediabetes, you can delay or prevent type 2 diabetes from developing. You may be able to reduce blood glucose with simple lifestyle changes, such as increasing your physical activity and enjoying a healthy, low-fat meal plan. Even losing a modest amount of weight (5-10 percent of your total body weight) through healthy eating and regular exercise can make a huge difference to your quality of life.

The effectiveness of lifestyle changes in preventing the progression to type 2 diabetes has been proven in two large studies: the Finnish Diabetes Prevention Study, and the US Diabetes Prevention Program. Both of these studies showed that a low-calorie meal plan with reduced fat intake and moderate-intensity physical activity of at least 150 minutes per week resulted in a 58 percent reduction in the number of people who progressed from prediabetes to diabetes over the following four years, even though weight loss was modest.

When lifestyle changes are not enough to normalize blood glucose, at least two medications have been shown to be effective in preventing type 2 diabetes in people with impaired glucose tolerance or prediabetes. They are metformin, proven effective in the Diabetes Prevention Program, and acarbose, shown effective in another study called stop-niddm (non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus).

If you have prediabetes, you are at an increased risk for heart disease and stroke, so your doctor may wish to inform you about or treat you for cardiovascular risk factors such as tobacco use, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

The important thing to remember about prediabetes is that it doesn’t always lead to diabetes. Determining whether or not you have prediabetes gives you the chance to make your furtue healthy and disease-free.

Risk factors for type 2 diabetes
• Being 40 years of age or older
• Having a close relative (parent or sibling) who has type 2 diabetes
• Having a history of impaired glucose tolerance or impaired fasting glucose
• Having already had some evidence of the complications of diabetes, such as eye, nerve or kidney problems
• Having heart disease
• Having a history of gestational diabetes
• Having high blood pressure
• Having high cholesterol
• Being overweight, especially around your abdomen
• Being of Aboriginal, Hispanic, Asian, South Asian or African descent

This information was provided by the Canadian Diabetes Association. The CDA works in communities across the country to promote the health of Canadians and eliminate diabetes through their strong nationwide network of volunteers, employees, health- care professionals, researchers, partners and supporters. 1-800-BANTING (226-8464); diabetes.ca.

For more from Thrive, Canadian Health & Lifestyle‘s guide to living well with diabetes click here.