The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates more than 29 million people in the United States have diabetes, and another 86 million adults – more than 1 in 3 – are prediabetic.
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To this point, a study published online in the Journal of the American Medical Association last September stated nearly half of all American adults have diabetes or prediabetes.
We sat down with Damon Tanton, MD, endocrinologist at Florida Hospital, to ask a few questions about prediabetes and Type 2 diabetes. Below are his responses.
What is diabetes?
Diabetes is a disease that results in an abnormal rise in blood glucose (sugar) levels. This is also called hyperglycemia. Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of this condition.
So, what is prediabetes?
Prediabetes – sometimes referred to as impaired fasting glucose (IFG), impaired glucose tolerance (IGT), or insulin resistance (IR) – is a condition where your blood sugar levels are higher than normal, especially after meals, but not high enough to be classified as type 2 diabetes.
Are there signs or symptoms of prediabetes?
The most common symptoms of insulin resistance are:
- Weight gain, especially around your mid-section
- Cravings for sweets and carbohydrates
- Extreme fatigue
- Sleepiness after carbohydrate-rich meals
- Lightheadedness or weakness when fasting
- Unexplained irritability, especially between meals
- Irregular menstruation, increased miscarriage rate, infertility
- A darkening of the folds of the skin, especially at the neck and groin [called acanthosis nigricans]
So who’s most at risk for prediabetes?
If you’re inactive and overweight, you should be tested. Other risk factors include:
- A close family member, such as a parent or sibling, who has diabetes
- African-American, Latin-American or Asian/Pacific Islander descent
- Elevated blood pressure, cholesterol or triglyceride levels
- A history of gestational diabetes or polycystic ovary syndrome
What can you do?
If you’re concerned, ask to be tested at your next office visit, or schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider. He or she can order a simple, fasting blood test, similar to one drawn from those with diabetes.
Will I develop Type 2 diabetes?
Having prediabetes doesn’t mean you’ll definitely develop Type 2 diabetes. Without intervention, however, many patients with prediabetes will develop type 2 diabetes in the upcoming 5 years, according to the American Diabetes Association. If you have prediabetes, long-term damage— especially to your heart and circulatory system — may already be starting.
What is Type 2 diabetes?
High blood glucose (sugar) results when your body is no longer able to use the hormone, insulin, effectively — this is known as insulin resistance.
At first, your pancreas – an organ located between your stomach and spine that helps with digestion – makes extra insulin to overcome this resistance. Over time, however, the pancreas is unable to make enough insulin to keep blood glucose at normal levels.
How does insulin work?
Insulin transfers excess sugar from your blood to your cells to be used for energy. When your body becomes insulin resistant, sugar starts building in your blood, and this begins to cause damage to your blood vessels, nerves, and organs.
So what’s the good news?
Progression from prediabetes to type 2 diabetes isn’t inevitable. You can prevent, or at least postpone, the conversion to diabetes.
What can you do?
With healthy lifestyle changes — such as eating healthy foods, regular physical activity, and maintaining a healthy weight — you may be able to reverse your blood sugar level back to normal.
Research shows optimizing your lifestyle not only reduces your risk for diabetes but does so even better than using medication. What’s more, improvements in glucose levels (and symptoms) may be seen in as little as three months.Source: National Institutes of Health; American Diabetes Association; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Florida Hospital Diabetes Institute