Many miss signs of prediabetes, a wake-up call to prevent diabetes
Type 2 diabetes doesn’t usually appear all of a sudden. Many people have a long, slow, invisible lead-in to it called prediabetes.
During this period, blood sugar levels are higher than normal. However, they’re not high enough to cause symptoms or to be classified as diabetes. It’s still possible at this stage to prevent the slide into full-blown diabetes. Think of prediabetes as a wake-up call.
Unfortunately, few people ever hear the alarm. A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that among Americans age 20 and older, only 10% of those with prediabetes know they have it. Given that as many as 73 million Americans have prediabetes, that’s a lot of missed opportunities to prevent the ravages of diabetes.
One reason many people don’t know that they may be headed toward diabetes is they’ve never had their blood sugar tested.
The American Diabetes Association and other organizations recommend routine blood sugar testing in people at high risk for developing diabetes. These include:
everyone over age 45
younger people who are overweight and who also have one of these diabetes risk factors:
little or no physical activity
family history of diabetes
high blood pressure or high cholesterol
previous diagnosis of heart disease or polycystic ovary syndrome
diabetes during pregnancy (gestational diabetes) or having delivered a baby weighing more than nine pounds
Not everyone with prediabetes will go on to develop diabetes. Over the short term (three to five years), about 25% of people with prediabetes develop full-blown diabetes. The percentage is significantly larger over the long term.
Getting the wake-up call of prediabetes can be very useful. A three-part strategy can keep many people with it from ever getting diabetes. The strategy includes modest weight loss, increased physical activity, such as walking 30 minutes a day, and choosing a healthier diet.
In addition to helping stave off diabetes, these lifestyle changes can also help protect against heart attack, stroke, bone-thinning osteoporosis, and a host of other chronic conditions.
Harvard Health Publishing