Have you been diagnosed as PreDiabetic?
Across the country, 96 million1https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/basics/prediabetes.html people have pre-diabetes or Type 2 Diabetes. This makes it one of the most common diseases in the US. This is almost one-third of our population!
It’s safe to say that most adults know what diabetes is and how it affects people. That said, what some people don’t realize is that Type 2 diabetes is a two-step disease.
You don’t develop full-blown Type 2 Diabetes out of the blue. It develops over time and can be put into remission!
Sidenote: if you are age 65 or older, you have a 1 in 2 chance2https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/diabetes-link-age of having pre-diabetes.
The first step is pre-diabetes, which affects about 96 million people in the US. That’s one in three Americans! I bet we all know someone with pre-diabetes. It might even be you!
Let’s say you are at the grocery store. 1 in every 3 people means that every 3rd person you see in the store likely has pre-diabetes. Prediabetes leads to Type 2 Diabetes. You can’t tell by looking at someone. They may be the visual picture of health and still be prediabetic.
But what does pre-diabetes look like, and what does it mean for those diagnosed with it?
What Happens When a Non-Diabetic Eats?
To understand Type 2 or pre-diabetes, we first need to go over what our bodies do when we eat sugar.
When a person eats, they absorb the nutrients from the food into their blood. These nutrients include sugar which gets turned into glucose. Glucose is what our cells usually use to keep our bodies running, like fuel. When a person has diabetes, their body has difficulty getting glucose into the cells.
Let’s pretend that your cells are a car, and to put glucose in the car; you need a key. In our bodies, this key is insulin. Most people have plenty of insulin. Their cells “unlock” to let glucose in anytime they get the right keys.
What Happens When Someone With Pre-diabetes Eats
People developing pre-diabetes make insulin. But, their cells don’t recognize the keys as well anymore. When the body can no longer recognize the keys, there are always high amounts of sugar stuck in the blood. These sugars cannot get into the cells to be used as energy. Then there is too much glucose circulating causing high blood sugar levels.
What happens when a prediabetic continues to eat their usual high-sugar diet?
Without diet and lifestyle changes undiagnosed prediabetics will develop Type 2 diabetes. This is due to the high blood glucose levels causing further damage. An early diagnosis makes it much easier to put Type 2 Diabetes into remission.
Type 2 Diabetes always develops over time and in stages. This is because our cells can become desensitized to insulin over time.
The greater the intake of sugar, the greater the risk. Even some foods with sugar substitutes can increase blood sugar levels. This is why testing is so important before and after meals.
The Effects of High Amounts of Sugar in the Body
As we mentioned, every time a person eats sugar, the body makes insulin. Over time when a person eats too much sugar, the body gets used to making a lot of insulin. The insulin loses more and more of its ability to let the sugar into the cells.
When this happens, our cells can get used to a high circulating level of insulin. It makes Type 2 Diabetes get worse and worse.
Good news! This process is reversible if caught early enough. And that is where pre-diabetes testing comes in.
What is Pre-Diabetes?
If blood sugars are following a pattern of being higher than normal levels, talk to your doctor. Get testing to learn how far your prediabetes or Type 2 Diabetes had progressed.
It may be that these levels are not yet so high that they qualify for a diabetes diagnosis. That’s good news!
Read more here about the top signs that you may already have Type 2 Diabetes before your doctor tells you.
These are the usual tests you can expect for prediabetes diagnosis.
The first test is the A1c 3https://www.diabetes.org/diabetes/a1c, which checks the average percent of sugar in the blood over months. If a person has a result between 5.7-6.5%, they are pre-diabetic.
The fasting blood plasma glucose 4https://www.diabetes.org/diabetes/a1c/diagnosis test checks the amount of sugar in the blood. Fasting tests mean no food for at least 8 hours before the test.
Tip: Drinking water is usually fine. Water helps you stay hydrated. Being hydrated also makes it much easier to do your blood work/lab testing.
When a person doesn’t eat for 8 hours, their blood sugar should decrease. But when a person with diabetes or prediabetes doesn’t eat, their blood sugar stays higher than normal.
100-125mg/dL5https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/basics/getting-tested.html is the prediabetic range for this test.
Tip: Being warm when you do your blood work makes the phlebotomists’ job much easier. Wear a sweater as these places are often very cold.
Doctors’ last test to identify pre-diabetes is the oral glucose tolerance6https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/glucose-tolerance-test/about/pac-20394296 test. This is almost never ordered by American doctors.
For testing, a person consumes a sugar solution. After a couple of hours, they do a blood glucose test. This shows how much sugar is still in the blood after a short time.
People with results between 140 and 199mg/dL7https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/basics/getting-tested.html are at risk for prediabetes.
It’s possible to have prediabetes and not get full-blown diabetes. This isn’t an automatic process. It takes time.
Being diagnosed with prediabetes isn’t the end of the world. It’s helpful information. 50%8ttps://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/21498-prediabetes of pre-diabetics will get full diabetes within 5 – 10 years. You don’t have to be one of them.
Reversing Type 2/prediabetes is all about making healthy lifestyle changes. Making small changes to your diet and lifestyle can pay off in big ways!
Tip: Go for a 2-minute9https://www.nytimes.com/2022/08/04/well/move/walking-after-eating-blood-sugar.html walk after every meal. Even going on a walk 4 – 5 times a week has a great impact on your health.
What else can you do?
Avoid sugars, test your blood glucose levels, and know your blood pressure. Blood pressure and cholesterol will generally come back in line after healthy changes. The most impactful change is getting blood sugar stable.
While a pre-diabetes diagnosis can be scary, knowing you have it can make all the difference. It’s a chance to turn your health around!