Twenty-nine million Americans—nearly 10% of the population—live with diabetes. Though insulin therapy and first-rate medical care mean that diabetes does not have to be the death sentence it once was, diabetes can shorten your life. And of course, no one relishes the idea of daily injections. If your doctor has diagnosed you with prediabetes, now is the time to get your health under control.
What is Prediabetes?
Prediabetes is when your blood sugar levels are higher than the ideal range, but not sufficiently high to qualify for a diagnosis of diabetes. The condition affects 86 million adults, 15% to 30% of whom will develop diabetes within five years. Prediabetes is often the product of an unhealthy lifestyle, which means that a diagnosis doesn't have to be a source of depression and frustration. The right lifestyle choices can help you get your blood sugar and health under control.
What Are the Symptoms of Prediabetes?
Many people with prediabetes have no symptoms at all, making the primary symptom of this condition unusually high blood sugar. Any change in your health warrants a trip to the doctor, but some common symptoms that could signal diabetes or pre-diabetes include:
- Unexplained weight gain
- Frequent infections; women may experience an onslaught of vaginal yeast infections
- Chronic, insatiable thirst
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome
- High blood pressure
- Low HDL cholesterol, or a high triglyceride level
- Frequent urination
- Unexplained fatigue or muscle weakness
- Blurred vision
- Circulatory problems, especially in the feet or legs
- Unexplained and undiagnosed infertility; while many issues can lead to issues with fertility, couples that have trouble conceiving a child should both be screened for diabetes.
What Can I Do About Prediabetes?
Prediabetes does not have to turn into full-blown diabetes, and if diabetes does not run in your family, your odds of heading off this dangerous condition are excellent. Talk to your doctor about your specific risk factors, and be sure to ask whether you need to make lifestyle changes. To reduce your likelihood of diabetes, try the following:
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet, focusing on high-fiber and low-calorie foods.
- Limit your consumption of refined sugars and prepackaged junk food.
- Get more exercise, aiming for 30 to 60 minutes of moderately intense aerobic activity four or more days per week.
- Lose weight if you are overweight or obese. Some research suggests that losing just five or 10 pounds—even if you remain overweight—can significantly lower your risk of developing diabetes.
- Ask your doctor about diabetes medication. If your doctor believes you are high risk, or if you have other health conditions, he or she may prescribe a drug such as Metformin to lower your blood sugar. Ask your doctor about the relative risks and benefits of taking this drug, and be sure to tell him or her about any other medications, prescription or over-the-counter, you take.