What is prediabetes and who is at risk?
Prediabetes is a condition where blood glucose levels are higher than normal, but haven’t reached the level required for a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes.
Since there are no symptoms with prediabetes, it is important to get tested. There are risk factors that may make you more likely to have prediabetes and these are the same risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes.
What are the risk factors for prediabetes?
- being overweight (e.g. a high body mass index, also known as a BMI)
- increased waist circumference (men: greater than 102 cm; women: greater than 88 cm)
- sedentary lifestyle (i.e. inactivity or excessive sitting)
- age (the risk of prediabetes increases after 40 years of age)
- family history (e.g. a parent or sibling with type 2 diabetes)
- ethnicity (being of Aboriginal, African, Asian, Hispanic or South Asian descent)
- high blood pressure (greater than 130/85 mm Hg)
- abnormal blood fats or cholesterol
- having gestational diabetes puts you and your baby at risk for prediabetes
- exhaustion, especially without physical exertion
- excessive mood swings, including depression
- issues with digestion (e.g. constipation, bloating, nausea)
- excessive thirst and hunger (e.g. feeling hungry after a full meal or needing to drink three or four litres of water a day)
Metabolic syndrome and prediabetes
Prediabetes can also be part of a condition called ‘metabolic syndrome’ where you may have a combination of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, elevated blood sugars or excess fat around the waist.
If you have any of these risk factors, talk to your healthcare provider about testing your blood sugar.
Is it possible to prevent diabetes if you have prediabetes?
Almost everyone with type 2 diabetes started off with prediabetes. However, not all people with prediabetes will advance to develop type 2 diabetes.
In some cases, healthy lifestyle changes (healthy eating and increased physical activity) can effectively keep blood glucose levels within normal targets and avoid the progression from prediabetes to type 2 diabetes.
If lifestyle changes don’t work, then what?
For many people, lifestyle changes alone may not be enough to maintain target blood sugar levels. In these cases, you may also need to take oral medications, such as metformin. Other medications may also be prescribed to help control cholesterol or high blood pressure.
Medications can be an effective tool in helping to manage prediabetes. However, always remember that they need to be combined with healthy lifestyle changes to obtain and maintain desired results.
Talk to your diabetes healthcare team about the strategies that will work best for you. Also discuss what ongoing screening should be maintained to keep good track of your condition. If you are over 40 years of age, testing your blood sugar should be part of your regular medical checkup.
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