Cracking the Code: What is Prediabetes and How to Navigate Your Journey to Better Health
22 Jan, 2024

Ever wondered about the middle ground between normal blood sugar and diabetes? Well, welcome to the world of prediabetes – where your blood sugar is a bit higher than the norm but not quite hitting diabetes levels. Let's unravel the basics, in a casual chat that won't put you to sleep.

Prediabetes marks the intermediate phase between a normal metabolic state and full-fledged diabetes. Diabetes arises when your body struggles to respond to or generate adequate insulin, a vital hormone produced in the pancreas. This leads to an elevated glucose level in your bloodstream, surpassing the normal range. Glucose, a crucial sugar required by all cells in your body, becomes a concern in prediabetes as it hovers slightly above the usual levels, although not reaching the threshold for diabetes.

While not all of the causes of prediabetes are in your control, the good news is that some of them are. Making the lifestyle choices outlined below may help you reduce your risk of prediabetes or at least delay the onset of type 2 diabetes.


Prediabetes Symptoms

Prediabetes frequently lurks without any noticeable symptoms. Surprisingly, over 80% of individuals with prediabetes remain unaware of their condition. However, a minority may observe certain indicators, like changes in skin pigmentation such as darkened or velvety patches, as well as the development of small skin growths in areas like the armpit or the back of the neck.


Causes and Risk Factors

Prediabetes can stem from various factors. Some individuals experience insulin resistance, a condition where cells in muscles, fat, and the liver struggle to respond effectively to insulin, impeding the proper utilization of glucose from the bloodstream. Insulin, a key regulator, ordinarily aids in lowering glucose levels. When the body's response to insulin falters, the pancreas compensates by producing more insulin.

On the other hand, there are instances where the pancreas's beta cells, responsible for insulin production, can't generate enough insulin to meet the demand. This inadequacy in insulin function or production results in elevated glucose levels in the bloodstream, leading to prediabetes. Over time, if left unaddressed, this condition can progress to type 2 diabetes.

Understanding the risk factors associated with prediabetes is crucial. Genetic and lifestyle elements can heighten the likelihood of developing prediabetes. Your risk may increase if you:

  • Are overweight or obese, indicated by a high body mass index (BMI)
  • Are 45 years or older
  • Have a parent or sibling with diabetes
  • Lead a physically inactive lifestyle
  • Have health conditions like high blood pressure or high cholesterol
  • Experienced gestational diabetes during pregnancy
  • Possess a history of heart disease or stroke
  • Have metabolic syndrome
  • Are diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)


How Is Prediabetes Diagnosed?

To pinpoint prediabetes, healthcare providers rely on blood tests, with the fasting plasma glucose (FPG) test and the A1C test being the most common.

The Fasting Plasma Glucose (FPG) Test involves measuring blood glucose at a specific moment after an 8 to 12-hour fasting period (no food or drinks other than water). A normal result is 99 milligrams or less per deciliter, while prediabetes is identified when blood glucose falls between 100 and 125 milligrams per deciliter. Anything exceeding 126 indicates Type 2 diabetes.

On the other hand, the A1C Test provides insight into your average blood glucose levels over the past three months. Normal results are below 5.7%, while prediabetes ranges from 5.7% to 6.4%. A reading of 6.5% and above points to Type 2 diabetes.

As for treatments, early intervention is crucial to prevent adverse effects on blood vessels, potentially causing damage to vital organs like the heart, kidneys, and eyes. Treatment primarily revolves around lifestyle changes, emphasizing a daily 30-minute exercise routine. In some cases, medication may be necessary.2

It's noteworthy that diabetes and prediabetes share similarities, allowing for a similar approach in both treatment and prevention. By addressing prediabetes proactively, you're ultimately working towards preventing the onset of Type 2 diabetes.

Preventing Prediabetes and Associated Risks

The good news? Prediabetes is preventable. Whether you've already been diagnosed or simply want to steer clear, these prevention tips can also delay the onset of Type 2 diabetes. Take note of these strategies to lower your prediabetes risk:

  1. Maintain a Healthy Weight: While excess weight boosts Type 2 diabetes risks, it's not the sole factor. Even those with average or slightly above-average weight may develop diabetes.

  2. Make Healthy Food Choices: Opt for non-starchy vegetables, limit added sugar in both foods and drinks, choose whole grains over refined grains, and minimize highly processed foods whenever possible.

  3. Stay Physically Active: Aim for 150 minutes of exercise per week or a brisk 30 minutes on five days. Exercise enhances your cells' sensitivity to insulin, facilitating better glucose removal from your bloodstream.

  4. Quit Smoking or Avoid Starting: If you smoke, quitting is a significant health boost. For non-smokers, steering clear of smoking is equally crucial. Smoking wreaks havoc on blood vessels, the heart, lungs, and various organs, even affecting your skin.

By embracing these lifestyle adjustments, you significantly boost your chances of preventing prediabetes and associated health conditions.2 However, it's essential to recognize that these changes might not yield the same results for everyone. In cases where lifestyle adjustments fall short, medications like metformin (Fortamet, Glucophage, Glumetza, Riomet) can be employed to manage prediabetes.

Considering Comorbid Conditions: Those with prediabetes face an increased likelihood of developing not just Type 2 diabetes but also other health issues. Prediabetes elevates the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke. If you've received a prediabetes diagnosis, regular testing for Type 2 diabetes every one to two years is strongly recommended.

Tailored Nutrition Guidance at Medway:  For personalized nutrition support, Medway offers a diverse range of experienced nutritionists and dietitians. Choose from a variety of professionals who can help tailor a diet plan to suit your individual needs and preferences. Whether you're aiming to prevent prediabetes, manage your condition, or simply adopt a healthier lifestyle, Medway's experts are here to guide you on your journey to optimal well-being.


Navigating Life with Prediabetes

If you've received a prediabetes diagnosis, it's crucial to understand that reversal is possible. Adhering to the preventive measures we've outlined can not only postpone the onset of type 2 diabetes but also potentially prevent it altogether. However, it's important to recognize that these changes don't manifest overnight, so be patient with yourself and your progress. By consistently incorporating regular exercise, maintaining a well-balanced diet, refraining from smoking, and managing your weight, you can pave the way for a long and healthy life.
If adopting these lifestyle adjustments feels like a significant shift for you, consider collaborating with your healthcare team to garner the necessary support. A qualified dietitian can assist you in finding a dietary plan that aligns with your lifestyle, while a dedicated physical therapist or personal trainer can help tailor a workout routine to suit your needs. Additionally, involving your loved ones in your journey, holding you accountable, and participating in your activities can provide valuable encouragement and reinforcement along the way.