Prediabetes Warning Signs: What You Need to Know

Prediabetes Warning Signs

Prediabetes is when your blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes. Prediabetes can increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes and other health problems, such as heart disease and stroke. The good news is that prediabetes can be reversed with lifestyle changes, such as eating healthy, being more active, and losing weight.

What Causes Prediabetes?

Prediabetes is caused by insulin resistance, which means your body does not use insulin properly. Insulin is a hormone that helps your cells take up glucose from your blood and use it for energy. When you have insulin resistance, your cells do not respond well to insulin, and glucose builds up in your blood instead of being used by your cells.

Insulin resistance can be influenced by several factors, such as:

  • Family history and genetics: You are more likely to have prediabetes if you have a parent or sibling with type 2 diabetes or if you belong to certain ethnic groups, such as African American, Hispanic/Latino, Native American, Asian American, or Pacific Islander.
  • Weight and waist size: Being overweight or obese can make you more prone to insulin resistance. Having excess fat around your waist can also increase your risk of prediabetes.
  • Diet and physical activity: Eating too much sugar, refined carbohydrates, red meat, and processed foods can raise your blood sugar levels and contribute to insulin resistance. Being physically inactive can also make your muscles less sensitive to insulin.
  • Age: Your risk of prediabetes increases as you get older, especially after age 45.
  • Other health conditions: Having high blood pressure, high cholesterol, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), or a history of gestational diabetes can also increase your risk of prediabetes.

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Prediabetes Warning Signs

What Are the Symptoms of Prediabetes?

Most people with prediabetes do not have any symptoms. However, some possible signs of prediabetes are:

  • Excessive thirst: You may feel thirsty more often than usual because your body tries to flush out the excess glucose in your blood through urine.
  • Frequent urination: You may need to urinate more often than normal because of the increased fluid loss from your body.
  • Blurred vision: You may have trouble seeing clearly because high blood sugar levels can damage the blood vessels in your eyes and cause fluid to leak into your lenses.
  • Fatigue: You may feel tired and sluggish because your cells do not get enough glucose for energy.
  • Numbness or tingling: You may experience numbness or tingling in your hands or feet because high blood sugar levels can damage the nerves in your extremities.
  • Slow-healing wounds: You may notice that cuts or sores take longer to heal because high blood sugar levels can impair your immune system and affect your blood circulation.
  • Darkened skin patches: You may develop dark, velvety patches of skin on your neck, armpits, or groin. This is called acanthosis nigricans and it is a sign of insulin resistance.

How Is Prediabetes Diagnosed?

The only way to know for sure if you have prediabetes is to get tested by your doctor. There are three main tests that can diagnose prediabetes:

  • Fasting plasma glucose (FPG) test: This test measures your blood sugar level after you have fasted (not eaten anything) for at least eight hours. A normal FPG level is less than 100 mg/dL. A FPG level between 100 and 125 mg/dL indicates prediabetes.
  • Oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT): This test measures your blood sugar level before and two hours after you drink a sweet liquid that contains glucose. A normal OGTT level is less than 140 mg/dL. A OGTT level between 140 and 199 mg/dL indicates prediabetes.
  • Haemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) test: This test measures the average amount of glucose attached to your red blood cells over the past two to three months. A normal HbA1c level is less than 5.7%. A HbA1c level between 5.7% and 6.4% indicates prediabetes.

Your doctor may use one or more of these tests to diagnose prediabetes. You may need to repeat the test on a different day to confirm the result.

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How Can You Prevent or Reverse Prediabetes?

If you have prediabetes, you can prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes by making some lifestyle changes. These include:

  • Eating healthy: Choose foods that are low in sugar, fat, and salt, and high in fiber, protein, and vitamins. Eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, fish, nuts, seeds, and low-fat dairy products. Avoid or limit sugary drinks, sweets, fried foods, processed meats, and refined carbohydrates.
  • Being more active: Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week. This can include brisk walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, dancing, or any other activity that raises your heart rate and makes you sweat. You can also do some strength training exercises to build your muscles and improve your insulin sensitivity.
  • Losing weight: If you are overweight or obese, losing even a small amount of weight can make a big difference in your blood sugar levels. A weight loss of 5% to 10% of your body weight can lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by up to 58%. You can achieve this by following a healthy diet and being more active.

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