Could You Have Prediabetes?
Underlying today's growing epidemic of type 2 diabetes is a much larger epidemic called prediabetes. Prediabetes occurs when an individual's blood sugar levels are higher than the normal range but are not high enough to be called diabetes.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that as many as 84 million Americans today have prediabetes. Untreated prediabetes frequently leads to type 2 diabetes within 10 years. If you have prediabetes, long-term damage to your heart and circulatory system may have already started.
The good news is that if you are diagnosed with prediabetes, it does not mean you are destined to become diabetic. Prediabetes can be treated and potentially reversed by making some simple lifestyle changes. Suggested lifestyle changes include losing weight, exercising, eating a healthy diet and cutting back on carbohydrates. You should consult with your physician to determine safe diet and exercise options for your circumstances. If you need more help, oral medications may be an option.
Because prediabetes typically causes no overt symptoms, most people who have it do not realize it. The only way to know with certainty is to get a blood test.
Everyone age 45 years or older should consider getting tested for prediabetes, especially if your body mass index (BMI) is above 25. See CDC.gov/bmi to calculate your BMI.
You should get checked for prediabetes if you are younger than age 45 and are overweight, have high blood pressure or a family history of diabetes. Individuals who are of Latino, Asian, African or Native American descent may also be at higher risk for diabetes and may benefit from early testing.
To help you determine your risk of diabetes, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) has a quick online risk test you can take for free at DoIHavePrediabetes.org.
If you are at risk for prediabetes, there are three different diagnostic tests your doctor can use. The most common is the "fasting plasma glucose test," which requires an eight-hour fast before you take it. There is also the "oral glucose tolerance test" to see how your body processes sugar, and the "hemoglobin A1C test" that measures your average blood sugar over the past three months. It can be taken anytime regardless of when you last ate.
Most private health insurance plans and Medicare cover diabetes tests. You can also purchase a blood glucose meter and test yourself at home. They cost approximately $20 at most drug stores.
If you find that you are prediabetic or diabetic, you should see your doctor to develop a plan to control it. The ADA recommends losing weight and moderate exercise, such as 150 minutes a week of brisk walking. When lifestyle changes alone do not work, medication might be helpful. The ADA recommends the generic drug metformin, especially for very overweight people younger than age 60.
For more information on diabetes and prediabetes, or to find help, join a lifestyle change program recognized by the CDC at CDC.gov/diabetes/prevention. These programs offer in-person and online classes in more than 1,500 locations throughout the U.S. Over the course of a year, a coach will help you learn how to eat healthy, increase your physical activity and develop new habits.
Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living" book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization's official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.