Prediabetes: What Is It and Why Is It Important?
For those of us with Type 1 diabetes, the warning signs can strike quickly and without warning. People with Type 2 diabetes, however, often have an early warning signal – prediabetes. Despite not being greatly understood, this condition can serve as a wake up call to people on the road to Type 2 diabetes. Those that pay attention can often avoid diabetes entirely. Those that don’t can end up on the road to insulin dependency.
What Is Prediabetes?
Prediabetes has been characterized as a condition where people begin to experience some, but not all, of the effects of T2 diabetes. The blood sugar levels found in individuals with prediabetes are higher than they should be, but not quite high enough to be classified as full Type 2. Similarly, resistance to insulin is higher than it should be, but not so high that the individuals with prediabetes are at as much risk as those with full on Type 2 diabetes.
In fact, for this reason prediabetes is also often referred to as either impaired glucose tolerance, or impaired fasting glucose. The exact name depends on the type of test that was given to determine the presence of prediabetes and the preference of your physician.
Many people with prediabetes aren’t aware that they have prediabetes, and due to the wide range of possible symptoms, it’s difficult to know exactly who should get tested and who doesn’t need to. Some common rules of thumb are to get tested if you find yourself developing any of the signs or symptoms of Type 2 diabetes. Especially if you notice just a few, but not all, of the symptoms. You should also get tested if you have a family history of Type 2 diabetes, or have other risk factors present either in yourself or in immediate family. Talk to your physicians about your possible risk factors and whether you should be tested for prediabetes if you have any concerns.
What Does Prediabetes Mean For Me?
The most important thing to know is what prediabetes does NOT mean. Prediabetes does not mean that you are destined to get Type 2 diabetes. What having prediabetes does mean, however, is that you are at a higher risk for Type 2 diabetes. A diagnosis of prediabetes means that your body is displaying some of the signs that it is unable to properly process glucose, or that you are growing resistant to insulin.
More immediately, though, prediabetes rarely means the same thing to different people. Because the condition is so vaguely described, and because different people manifest different symptoms of diabetes, there is no single set of symptoms and effects that all people with prediabetes exhibit.
What Should You Do If You’re Diagnosed With Prediabetes?
The first thing you should do is consider yourself lucky. Why? Because many people don’t get a clear warning saying that they are at risk for a life-changing condition, nor are most people given the chance to make changes and adjustments to their lifestyle to decrease that risk.
The next thing you should do is to talk to your physician about the changes you need to make to try to prevent full Type 2 diabetes from developing. Most often, these changes will involve altering your diet, getting more exercise, and generally becoming more healthy. The specific actions you’ll need to take will largely depend on your exact situation and exactly what is contributing the most towards prediabetes.
For the vast majority of people, taking the right steps early can completely prevent diabetes from setting in. The best part is, the steps that are needed are usually incredibly easy and will provide a huge amount of additional health benefits, aside from lowering your risk of T2D.