Prediabetes is exactly what it sounds like: a step toward type 2 diabetes.
In prediabetes, your blood sugar is higher than they should be, but not quite high enough to be considered diabetes. While type 1 diabetes is caused by genetics and unavoidable, type 2 diabetes has a genetic component and is more likely to occur based on certain lifestyle choices. Prediabetes is the warning sign that your lifestyle choices are moving you toward type 2 diabetes. Prediabetes is an opportunity to assess your health and lifestyle and make changes before it's too late. The CDC indicates that about 88 million Americans have prediabetes. Of those, 84% don't even know they have it. That's why recognizing the risk factors, symptoms, and knowing how to manage it are critical.
Risk Factors of Prediabetes
There are many risk factors for prediabetes. Some are avoidable, while others aren't. The unavoidable risk factors that you have little to no control over include:
- Family history
- Race or ethnic background
- Gestational diabetes (having diabetes while pregnant)
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
- Obstructive sleep apnea (while you may not be able to control having sleep apnea, there are things you can do to relieve it)
The avoidable risk factors are:
- Waist size (higher than 40 for men and 35 for women)
- Diet (too much red or processed meat and too many sugary drinks or snacks increase risk, while fruits, veggies, nuts, and whole grains can lower it)
The more unavoidable risk factors you have, the more you should take action on the avoidable factors.
What Are the Warning Signs and Symptoms of Prediabetes?
Many of the warning signs and symptoms of prediabetes can also be signs and symptoms of other conditions. This means a single symptom by itself doesn't necessarily mean you are prediabetic. It also means that if you notice one or more symptoms, it's important to talk to your doctor so you can find out what's going on and start treating it. The warning signs and symptoms of prediabetes include:
- Blurry visions
- Wounds that heal slowly
- Cold hands and feet
- Extreme fatigue
- Unexplained weight loss
- Dry mouth
- Excessive thirst
- Increased urination
- Dark velvety patches around armpits, neck and elbows (looks a bit like dirty skin)
- Recurring infections
- Itchy skin
- Increase in UTIs
- Odd sensations like burning, tingling, or numbness in hands, feet, toes, or fingers
Making Lifestyle Adjustments
If you've been diagnosed with, or suspect you may be on the verge of, prediabetes, there are things you do. Preventing, managing and reversing prediabetes all include the same basic lifestyle adjustments.
- Lose weight. Weight loss is one of the best, and biggest, changes you can make. Studies have found that losing as little as 7% of your weight can be enough to make an enormous difference.
- Get more active. Low activity levels, even in otherwise healthy people, are associated with increased blood sugar levels. Aim for 30 minutes a day most days.
- Eat more veggies & be choosy with carbs. Fruits, veggies, whole grains, and protein are great for managing blood sugar. Carbs can be good or bad, depending on whether they're simple, complex, or refined.
- Watch what you drink. Avoid sugary drinks and stick to water as much as possible.
- Get plenty of sleep. Try to get seven hours of quality sleep each night at minimum.
- Reduce and manage stress. Physical and mental stress can increase blood sugar levels. Consider yoga, meditation, talking to a therapist or friend, or even exercise to ease stress.