Elizabeth Smoots, MD
Just as pre-cancer may be detected and removed before turning into
cancer, discovery of diabetes in its earliest stages may help prevent further development of type 2 diabetes.
Blood sugar levels that are higher than normal, but not high enough to be called diabetes, are classified as prediabetes. Prediabetes is also called impaired glucose tolerance or impaired fasting glucose.
Evidence indicates that people with prediabetes can take steps to return their blood sugar levels to a normal range. This can prevent or delay complications that are linked to diabetes.
If you have prediabetes, then you are at risk for type 2 diabetes and other serious conditions, like heart attack and stroke.
Other long-term health problems can result if you do not have good control over your blood sugar levels. Complications related to type 2 diabetes include but are not limited to:
Being overweight is the major risk factor for prediabetes and diabetes. Obesity and type 2 diabetes make your body cells less sensitive to the effects of insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar levels. This allows blood sugar levels to rise over time and can result in long-term damage to your body.
This is an especially important risk factor for Americans since many are overweight. African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, Asian Americans, and Pacific Islanders may be at an even higher risk, probably due to genetics.
Prediabetes and diabetes can be diagnosed with a simple blood test. During a routine office visit, your doctor can order tests, such as:
The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends that the following people get screened for diabetes:
Screening should be repeated at least every three years if the results are normal, or every year for those people who are at increased risk for future diabetes.
If your test indicates prediabetes, you should have it repeated for accuracy. If you do have prediabetes, you will need to be retested every year.
Fortunately, we know that people with prediabetes can delay or prevent the onset of diabetes with lifestyle changes. Experts recommend that people with prediabetes reduce their weight by 5-7% and engage in modest physical activity for at least 150 minutes each week. In addition to exercising, you doctor will also recommend that you make changes to your diet. This may include eating more fruits and vegetables and whole grain foods. You should also limit your intake of sugar-sweetened drinks.
If you already drink alcohol, limit your drinking to moderate to amounts of alcohol. This is 2 drinks per day for men, 1 drink per day for women. Some studies have shown a benefit for people who drink moderately.
In some cases, medications commonly used to treat diabetes may be prescribed to prevent people from developing diabetes.
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National Diabetes Education Program
Public Health Agency of Canada
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Last reviewed July 2016 by Michael Woods, MD
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