As a general rule, if we are developing a serious illness we would be able to know it due to, let’s say, a large number of symptoms. Well, it’s not always true. Consider that a shocking 86 million people in the U.S.—that’s 1 out of every three adults—are prediabetic, yet 90% of them have no idea. Prediabetes means that your blood sugar level is higher than normal but not yet high enough to be type 2 diabetes. It’s very likely to progress to type 2 diabetes. If you have prediabetes, and it’s not detected, the long-term damage of diabetes – especially to your heart, blood vessels, and kidneys – may already be starting. In technical terms, the American Diabetes Association classifies anyone with fasting blood sugar between 100-126 mg/DL or the equivalent of HbA1c between 5.7-6.4% as having prediabetes. Those with fasting blood sugar above 126 mg/DL or HbA1c 6.5% are said to have diabetes. During the prediabetes phase, your pancreas usually still produces enough insulin in response to ingested carbohydrates. The insulin is less effective at removing the sugar from the bloodstream, so your blood sugar remains high. This condition is called insulin resistance. Don’t get too scared though, progression from prediabetes to type 2 diabetes isn’t inevitable or irreversible and it might take years to develop, but It is a warning of what could lie ahead. Eating healthy foods, incorporating physical activity into your daily routine, and maintaining a healthy weight can help bring your blood sugar level back to normal. However, what is most alarming is that prediabetes is mostly a silent condition, so getting a regular wellness checkup is important for early detection. While the exact causes of prediabetes are yet unknown, family history and genetics seem to play a crucial role in its development, as well as, a sedentary, lifestyle combined with poor food choices and obesity. This said, there are signs that can show you if you are on the way to prediabetes, the problem is that people too often overlook them. So let’s see what to watch for…
We are not referring to a few extra pounds you might have put on after the holidays, but being consistently overweight. The more fatty tissue you have, especially inside muscles and around your abdomen, the more resistant your cells are to the action of insulin. What does it mean? Blood sugar usually rises after eating, but typically insulin is released from the pancreas in response to high levels of blood glucose. When you have prediabetes, this process begins to work improperly. Instead of fueling your cells, sugar builds up in your bloodstream. This usually happens when the pancreas is unable to produce enough insulin or cells become resistant to the action of insulin and do not respond to it the way they normally should. So a good way to slim down your waistline is to include more vegetables in your diet “You can use the ‘plate’ method, where half your plate is filled with vegetables, a fourth is a protein, and a fourth is a whole-grain starch,” says Elizabeth Halprin, MD, an endocrinologist at Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston.
5. You indulge your sweet tooth
Candy, chocolate cake, cream-filled cookies…they are all delicious, but especially if you have a family history of type 2 diabetes, it’s a good idea not to indulge in sugar. Overeating not only sweets but also refined carbohydrates – bread, rice, pasta, potatoes – as well as processed meat can raise blood sugar and put you at risk of borderline diabetes. Focus instead on whole foods and complex carbohydrates such as beans, grains, and starchy vegetables. A diet high in fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, and olive oil is associated with a lower risk of prediabetes.
4. Skin symptoms of prediabetes
Another red flag of prediabetes might manifest through changes on your skin. If you notice your skin darkened on the back of your neck, armpits, knuckles, knees, and elbows, it could be a sign of insulin resistance and prediabetes.
3. Sedentary lifestyle
The less active you are, the greater your risk of borderline diabetes. In fact, a regular physical activity not only helps you control your weight but also, burns glucose as energy instead of converting it into fat and makes your cells more sensitive to insulin. Even if you are not running marathons, little 10 minutes walk are a very healthy habit.
2. Age factor
Although diabetes can develop even in children, the risk of prediabetes increases mostly after your 45th birthday. Unfortunately, around that age, people start to lose muscle mass, metabolism tends to slow down, so it’s easier to gain weight.
1. Gestational diabetes
All pregnant women have temporarily elevated blood sugar levels. If those levels become higher than normal, the woman develops gestational diabetes. Even if, after giving birth, the levels go back to normal, both the mother and the child are considered at higher risk of borderline diabetes later on.
In addition to the signs discussed so far, other “sneaky” signs of prediabetes are your family history – if you have close relatives affected by type 2 diabetes – or if you suffer from sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, or frequent lack of sleep. Frequent urge to pee, blurred vision, unexplained fatigue, and excessive thirst are also red flags to look for. A CDC report in 2014 found that 86 million Americans had pre-diabetes, and if they did not make diet and lifestyle changes, 15-20% of them would end up diabetic within the next five years. As we said earlier, the good news is that if prediabetes is caught on time is not irreversible. That’s why proper knowledge of the risk factors and regular check-ups are fundamental. Even if you are already diagnosed with prediabetes, lifestyle changes can help to reverse the condition. Eliminate as much as possible refined carbohydrates and sweets. Also substitute red meats and processed meats with whole grains, fruits and vegetables, lean meats, and fatty fish. Add some physical activity to your daily routine and talk to your doctor to get back to health.Related: 7 Most Common Symptoms of Diabetes