Improve Your Health

What is Prediabetes?

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Dr. Robert Kitsis

Family Medicine

Ascension Columbia St. Mary's Milwaukee at Brown Deer

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According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, one in three American adults have prediabetes. But up to 90 percent of those affected are unaware they have it. That’s because there usually aren’t any signs or symptoms making it especially important to get regular health screenings and understand your risk for the condition.

Prediabetes occurs when your blood sugar levels are higher than normal. The condition serves as a clear warning – if you don’t take steps to improve your health, you’ll eventually progress to type 2 diabetes. It also increases your risk for heart disease, kidney disease and stroke.

The following factors increase your risk for prediabetes:

  • Being overweight
  • Being 45 years of age and older
  • African American, Hispanic American, American Indian and Asian American ethnicity
  • Family history of diabetes
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • History of gestational diabetes
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome

Although most people do not have any symptoms, some experience increased thirst, hunger and urination.

Because there usually aren’t symptoms, prediabetes is usually found during an annual exam with a primary care provider. For most people, prediabetes and diabetes screenings start between the ages of 40 and 45. Those who are overweight or obese, with additional risk factors, may begin earlier. Screenings include a fasting blood sugar test or a hemoglobin A1C test, which averages blood sugar levels over three months.

If you’re diagnosed with prediabetes, the number one thing you can do is to lose any excess weight. Even losing just five to ten percent of your body weight can help. You should also consider taking these steps to manage the condition:

  • Get more exercise – The American Heart Association recommends getting 150 minutes of exercise per week. Aim for a combination of moderate intensity cardio and strength training.
  • Improve your diet – Consider following the Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes lean protein, whole grains, vegetables and fruit and healthy fat.
  • Reduce stress – You might try meditation or join a support group
  • Get enough sleep – Aim for seven to nine hours of sleep per night
  • Quit smoking

Taking steps to manage prediabetes can reduce your risk of progressing to type 2 diabetes by about half. When it’s caught early and properly treated, it’s even possible to reverse the condition.

To learn more about prediabetes and screenings, talk to your primary care provider. To find a primary care provider near you, talk to your health insurance provider.

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