By Patrick Knowles, M.D.
If your doctor has told you that you have prediabetes, do you need to take action? Only if you want to avoid becoming diabetic. Prediabetics are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes and may have some diabetic problems already.
Keep in mind that diabetes causes more deaths a year than breast cancer and AIDS combined. Two out of three people with diabetes die from heart disease or stroke.
Doctors sometimes refer to high blood glucose levels as Impaired Glucose Tolerance (IGT) or Impaired Fasting Glucose (IFG), depending on the test used to detect it. You should be checked for prediabetes during your next routine medical office visit if you’re overweight and 45 or older, or when your blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be a type 2 diabetic.
If your weight is normal and you’re older than 45, ask your doctor during a routine office visit if you should be tested. If you’re younger than 45 and overweight, your doctor may recommend testing if you have any other risk factors for diabetes or prediabetes, including:
• High blood pressure
• Low HDL cholesterol and high triglycerides
• A family history of diabetes
• A history of gestational diabetes or if you gave birth to a baby weighing more than nine pounds
Belonging to an ethnic or minority group at high risk for diabetes. Although prediabetes and diabetes occur in individuals of all ages and races, some groups have a higher risk for developing the disease. It’s more common in African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders, and in seniors.
You can lower your risk for type 2 diabetes by 58 percent by losing 7 percent of your body weight (or 15 pounds if you weigh 200 pounds), as well as exercising moderately, such as brisk walking, 30 minutes a day, five days a week. Physical activity can help keep your blood glucose, blood pressure, HDL cholesterol and triglycerides on target. Exercise also strengthens your heart, muscles and bones.
Losing just 10 to 15 pounds can make a big difference. For some individuals with prediabetes, early treatment can return blood glucose levels to the normal range.