What is pre-diabetes? Many people will probably give a vague answer to this question. It is important to understand what it is because it can progress to a more serious condition – type 2 diabetes.
This article is about the definition, types, causes, diagnostic procedures, risk factors, and prevention of pre-diabetes.
Definition of Pre-diabetes
The pancreas is a gland which can be found behind the stomach. It produces the hormone insulin and releases it into the bloodstream. Insulin has a significant role in our body’s metabolism. Our digestive system breaks down the carbohydrates in food that we eat and converts it into glucose (a form of sugar). Body cells take in glucose and use it for energy.
Pre-diabetes is a condition wherein your blood sugar level is higher than normal but not yet elevated enough to be classified as type 2 diabetes. It is also known as borderline diabetes.
Many people are not aware that they have it because it hardly shows any symptoms. Why should you be concerned about it? Pre-diabetes can eventually turn into type 2 diabetes – a condition which can lead to complications such as hypertension, kidney problems, and stroke.
Types of Pre-diabetes
1. Impaired Fasting Glucose (IFG) – In this type, the blood sugar level during fasting is above the normal levels, although not enough to be considered as diabetes. It is associated with resistance to insulin and a higher risk of having cardiovascular diseases.
IFG can lead to type 2 diabetes. The probability of this happening within a 10-year period is about 50 percent. Recent studies show that the average time of progression is less than three years.
2. Impaired Glucose Tolerance (IGT) – The American Diabetes Association and World Health Organization define impaired glucose tolerance as having 2-hour glucose levels of 140 mg/dl (milligrams per deciliter) to 199 mg/dl on the 75-g oral glucose test.
The blood sugar level is higher than normal but not elevated enough to be classified as type 2 diabetes. The chance of progression to full-blown diabetes for this type is higher compared to impaired fasting glucose.
What Causes Pre-diabetes?
The definite cause of pre-diabetes is still unknown. One of the possible culprits is genetics. People who have a genetic predisposition to the disease has a higher risk of getting it compared to the general population. Obesity and a sedentary lifestyle are contributory factors.
People with pre-diabetes are not that efficient in utilizing glucose in their bodies. It is because the production of insulin is not sufficient, or the body has developed a resistance to the effects of insulin. Instead of being a source of energy for the cells in the body, sugar levels begin to rise.
Three types of tests can be used to determine if you have pre-diabetes:
Fasting plasma glucose test – The doctor will tell you not to eat anything eight hours before taking this test. If your blood sugar level is less than 100 mg/dl, it is within the normal range.
A reading of 100 mg/dl to 125 mg/dl means that you have pre-diabetes. If the test result is more than 126 mg/dl, you already have full-blown diabetes; you need to take a confirmatory test.
Oral glucose tolerance test – To take this, you must first undergo a fasting plasma glucose test. You will be given a sugary solution to drink. Two hours after that, a second test will be conducted.
If the result is less than 140 mg/dl, it is normal. A reading of 140 mg/dl to 199 mg/dl means that you have pre-diabetes. If the blood sugar level is 200 mg/dl or higher, it means you already have diabetes.
Average blood sugar test (Hemoglobin A1C) – This blood test may be carried out to determine the average blood sugar level in the last three months. It measures how much blood sugar is attached to hemoglobin (the protein in red blood cells which carries oxygen).
If the result is 5.6 percent or less, it is considered normal. A reading of 5.7 to 6.4 percent is classified as pre-diabetes. If the test yields a result of 6.5 percent on two separate instances, a person will be diagnosed as diabetic.
Risk Factors for Pre-diabetes
• Age – Your risk of having pre-diabetes increases as you get older. This is especially true for people who are over 45. A possible explanation for this is because older people tend to be less active, making them more prone to being overweight.
• Genetics – If one or both of your parents have type 2 diabetes, you carry a higher risk of acquiring pre-diabetes (compared to the general population). The condition tends to run in families. Parents pass their genes to their children, including susceptibility to certain diseases.
• Lifestyle – Having a job wherein you are just confined to your office chair for long hours with not much movement can increase your risk of having pre-diabetes. Too much stress in the workplace and smoking can also be contributing factors.
• Being overweight – The normal weight for a certain individual varies, depending on that person’s height. More and more people around the world are adding those extra pounds, no thanks to the “modern diet” filled with unhealthy oils and fats. If you are on the heavy side, there is a higher chance that your body will be resistant to insulin.
• Race/Ethnicity – The correlation between race and pre-diabetes is still not clear. If you are an Asian American, Hispanic, or African-American, you have a higher chance of developing pre-diabetes.
• Sleep pattern – Those who are working on graveyard shifts and shifting schedules are more prone to having the condition. People with sleep problems like insomnia or sleep apnea (a disorder characterized by abnormal breathing during sleep) also have a higher risk.
• Pregnancy – Women who had gestational diabetes have a higher chance of developing pre-diabetes later in life.
• Waist size – A male who has a waistline of 40 inches and a female with a waistline of 35 inches has a higher chance of developing pre-diabetes.
• Physical inactivity – Insulin resistance can be associated with physical inactivity. Muscles are the primary users of glucose in the body. So, if you seldom use them, there is a possibility that your blood sugar level may rise.
How to Prevent It
The treatment for pre-diabetes and full-blown diabetes is basically the same. Your kind of lifestyle affects your chances of having the disease. There are lots of things that you can do to minimize the risk of acquiring it.
Eat healthy. Avoid or limit your consumption of foods that are high in saturated fats like fast food meals, butter, pastries, and junk food. A low carbohydrate, high fiber diet like cereals, wholegrain bread, and fruit is a much better alternative.
Regular exercise helps the body utilize insulin in a more efficient manner. Activities such as walking, jogging, and aerobics can be done 20 to 30 minutes a day, three to five times a week. You will not only lower the risk of having pre-diabetes, you will also lose unwanted pounds and feel energized.
Pre-diabetes is a condition where the blood sugar level is higher than normal but not elevated enough to be classified as diabetes. In diagnosing pre-diabetes, three tests can be used: fasting plasma glucose test, oral glucose tolerance test, and hemoglobin A1C test.
The risk factors for pre-diabetes are age, genetics, lifestyle, obesity, race, and physical inactivity. An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure, so eat healthy and exercise regularly.