Skip to main content

Destination diabetes?

Find out if you are at risk.

As we age, it’s normal to expect wrinkles and thinning hair. There are other things, however, we shouldn’t assume are normal parts of aging. For example, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and high blood sugar, which can lead to chronic disease. 

There’s a simple term for certain diseases before they become the full-blown version of a disease: “pre-disease.” Pre-disease means you don’t currently have a disease, but you’re headed toward one.

“Pre-disease is like coming to a fork in the road. It’s time to make a choice. You can make changes to your lifestyle and stop or delay the onset of a chronic disease. Or, you can change nothing and be highly prone to develop a lifelong disease that will impact every part of your life,” says Megan Muñoz, RN, MSN, and certified diabetes educator at UnityPoint Health Clinic in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

According to Muñoz, the most widely identified pre-disease is prediabetes. With prediabetes, your blood glucose (sugar) level is higher than normal, but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes.

Don’t let prediabetes develop into the real thing

Prediabetes affects about 38 percent External Site of Americans, according to a September 2015 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Nearly 90 percent of adults with prediabetes don’t even know they have the pre-disease.

If prediabetes progresses to diabetes, your health is at risk. People with unmanaged diabetes have a higher risk for heart attack and stroke, plus nerve or kidney damage, or loss of feet or legs. Diabetes may also contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

About 30 percent of people with prediabetes who don’t make healthy lifestyle changes develop type 2 diabetes within five years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) External Site.

Drugs are not necessary to treat prediabetes, but drugs to treat diabetes continue to be a significant contributor to Wellmark's overall prescription drug spending. In fact, in 2016, Wellmark's spending on diabetes therapies increased 17.7 percent. This accounted for 13 percent of all drug spending.

Research has found that type 2 diabetes drugs are usually less effective than lifestyle changes. Making changes to your diet and level of physical activity goes a long way in preventing diabetes. In some cases, however, drugs are used to treat prediabetes in patients with certain conditions.

See image description

Can prediabetes be reversed?

“The biggest difference between prediabetes and diabetes is that prediabetes is reversible. Diabetes is not,” says Muñoz.

“Regardless of whether or not you are diagnosed with diabetes, high blood sugars cause damage to the body,” adds Muñoz. “It’s important to note that blood sugars in the prediabetes range can cause nerve damage, eye damage and increase the risk for heart disease.”

With the right diet and level of physical activity, it's possible to avoid the health problems associated with prediabetes. Consider these tips: 

  • Lose 5 to 10 percent of your body weight.

    This is about 7–15 pounds for a 150-pound woman, and 9 – 18 pounds for a 180-pound man.

  • Focus on eating a variety of healthy food each day.

    It's also important to keep portion sizes in check.

  • Add regular physical activity to your day.

    The American Diabetes Association recommends 30 minutes of activity per day, five days a week. This includes two days of resistance training, which can include many activities, from weight lifting to yoga.

  • Have yourself checked for diabetes annually.

    Get checked more often if your doctor recommends it.

People with prediabetes who lost about 7 percent of their body weight had a 58 percent reduced risk of full-blown diabetes after three years, according to the landmark Diabetes Prevention Program study. Those who maintained a healthy lifestyle saw a 27 percent reduced risk of developing diabetes, on average, over the course of a 15-year follow up.

Visit the CDC website to find a diabetes prevention program in your community. You can also sign up for an online class through the CDC.

Do you have prediabetes? Take the quiz.

For each "yes" answer, add the number of points listed. All "no" answers are zero points.

  1. Are you a woman who had a baby weighing more than nine pounds at birth?
    • Yes (1 point)
    • No (0 points)
  2. Do you have a sister or brother with diabetes?
    • Yes (1 point)
    • No (0 points)
  3. Do you have a parent with diabetes?
    • Yes (1 point)
    • No (0 points)
  4. Find your height in the chart below. Do you weigh as much as or more than the weight listed for your height?
    • Yes (5 points)
    • No (0 points)
    At-Risk Weight Chart 4'10" to 5'3"
    At-Risk Weight Chart 5'4" to 5'9"
    At-Risk Weight Chart 5'10" to 6'3"
  5. Are you younger than 65 years of age and get little or no exercise in a typical day?
    • Yes (5 points)
    • No (0 points)
  6. Are you between 45 and 64 years of age?
    • Yes (5 points)
    • No (0 points)
  7. Are you 65 years of age or older?
    • Yes (9 points)
    • No (0 points)

Add up your score and check below to see what it means.

If your score is 3 to 8 points

This means your risk is probably low for having prediabetes now. Keep your risk low. If you’re overweight, increase your activity and eat low-fat meals with fruits, vegetables and whole-grain foods, and don’t use tobacco. If you have high cholesterol or high blood pressure, talk to your health care provider about your risk for type 2 diabetes.

If your score is 9 or more points

This means your risk is high for having prediabetes now. Please make an appointment with your health care provider soon.

Source: External Link