What is Prediabetes?
Prediabetes is warning phase before an individual might develop type 2 diabetes. This phase of the diabetes spectrum is very reversible. Type 2 diabetes is a disease where the body loses its ability to manage sugar levels. Adult-onset diabetes most often affects people with known risk factors and can take years to fully develop, unlike juvenile (type 1) diabetes, which can develop randomly and quickly. Prediabetes is literally what it looks like, pre diabetes. The step before full-blown Type 2 Diabetes (T2D).
What Are The Symptoms Of Prediabetes?
Prediabetes generally has no symptoms, per se. There are ranges of blood sugar measurements that are classed as pre-diabetic though. However, if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms you should contact your healthcare provider for a blood test to confirm if you are in the prediabetic range.
7 Common Symptoms of Diabetes
- Higher blood sugar
- Wounds heal slowly
- Vision problems
- Unexpected weight loss
- More frequent urination
- Excessive thirst
High Blood Sugar
Fasting blood sugar test
If your doctor asks you to fast for at least 8 hours before your blood test this is called a fasting blood sugar test. A fasting blood sugar level from 100 to 125 mg/dL (5.6 to 7.0 mmol/L) is considered prediabetes. This result is sometimes called impaired fasting glucose.
Glycated hemoglobin (A1C) test
This test does not require fasting and many physicians consider it to be the most accurate test for prediabetes. It indicates your average blood sugar level for the past two to three months. Specifically, the test measures the percentage of blood sugar attached to the oxygen-carrying protein in red blood cells (hemoglobin). The higher your blood sugar levels, the more hemoglobin you'll have with sugar attached. An A1C level between 5.7 and 6.4 percent is considered prediabetes.
Oral glucose tolerance test
If you are pregnant then your doctor will perform an oral glucose tolerance test on you. A blood sample is taken after you fast for at least eight hours or overnight. Then you'll drink a sugary solution, and your blood sugar level will be measured again after two hours. A blood sugar level from 140 to 199 mg/dL (7.8 to 11.0 mmol/L) is considered prediabetes.
Wounds healing slowly
High levels of blood glucose caused by diabetes can, over time, affect the nerves (neuropathy) and lead to poor blood circulation, making it hard for blood - needed for skin repair - to reach areas of the body affected by sores or wounds. This can cause them to remain open and unhealed for months, increasing the risk of:
- Fungal infections
- Bacterial infections
One of the common signs of diabetes is blurred vision, which refers to the loss of sharpness of vision and the inability to see fine details. Blurred vision can affect one eye (unilateral blurred vision) or both (bilateral blurred vision) eyes, and can occur often or rarely.
Unexpected weight loss
In people with diabetes, insufficient insulin prevents the body from getting glucose from the blood into the body's cells to use as energy. When this occurs, the body starts burning fat and muscle for energy, causing a reduction in overall body weight. Unexpected weight loss is often noticed in people prior to a diagnosis of type 1 diabetes (t1d) but it may also affect people with type 2 diabetes. (t2d)
More frequent urination (polyuria)
As well as being one of the symptoms of undiagnosed diabetes, polyuria (More frequent urination) can also occur in people with diagnosed diabetes if blood glucose levels have risen too high. If blood glucose levels become too high, the body will try to remedy the situation by removing glucose from the blood through the kidneys. When this happens, the kidneys will also filter out more water and you will need to urinate more than usual as a result.
If you are frequently experiencing an increased need to urinate, it could be a sign that your sugar levels are too high. If you have access to blood glucose testing strips, you may wish to test your sugar levels if you are urinating more often than normal. Otherwise, see your physician and ask about potential diabetes.
Excessive thirst (polydipsia)
Increased thirst in people with diabetes can sometimes be, but certainly not always, an indication of higher than normal blood glucose levels. If you do not have blood glucose testing equipment and are experiencing regular thirst which you think may be connected with your diabetes, speak with your physician who should be able to advise you. As anyone and everyone will have experienced the sensation of feeling thirsty, it is very important not to jump to conclusions. However, the symptoms of polydipsia are recognized as:
Having persistent and unexplained thirst, regardless of how much you drink
Passing more than 5 litres of urine a day
With diabetes, fatigue is caused by a number of factors, including:
- High blood sugar levels, either from a lack of the insulin hormone or from insulin resistance, can affect the body’s ability to get glucose from the blood into cells to meet our energy needs
- People on stronger diabetes medication such as insulin, may also experience fatigue as a symptom of low blood glucose levels.
Blood glucose testing can help to determine whether high or low sugar levels may be the cause of fatigue.
Reversing the symptoms of Pre Diabetes
If you have the dedication you can reverse prediabetes and prevent it from becoming Type 2 Diabetes (T2D). A few lifestyle changes can kick start this process and dedication to the lifestyle change will keep you out of the range.
Lose 5% of your body weight
When you have a lot of weight to lose it’s daunting to think of the work it will take to lose all of it. Setting a goal of 5-7 percent (that’s around 7 lbs. for a 150 lb. person), makes losing weight seem more manageable. Weight loss will help reduce inflammation, which is a symptom of insulin resistance.
You don't have to hit the gym if you find it daunting. But you do have to exercise regularly and try to get your heart working. Going for a stroll with your dog will help a little, but if you can go by yourself or with a friend then you can move faster and without a lot of breaks. Other exercises like swimming can help as well. Check with your physician to see what exercise you are healthy enough for. Exercise is a big part of reversing prediabetes. Exercise is good for you no matter what, but if you’re prediabetic, it’s especially helpful to get moving. Your muscles use up some of your excess blood sugar, which helps you lose weight and use the insulin your body produces more effectively.
Eat more vegetables
There are many important foods that can help to lower your blood sugar. When planning your meal, start with vegetables and don’t stop till they take up half the room on your plate. Vegetables have lots of fibers to help manage the levels of glucose in your system. Plus, they’re high in vitamins and minerals that help your body work better. Check our other articles for the Diabetes nutrition plan.
Understand Carbohydrates and the Glycemic Index
All carbohydrates break down to glucose in your blood. So whether you’re eating carbs in the form of donuts, pasta or whole grain bread, it all breaks down to glucose for your cells to use. That doesn’t mean you should eat cake instead of quinoa, because not all carbs are created equal. There are three main types of carbohydrates:
Simple carbohydrates—fast-acting carbohydrates that cause an immediate rise in blood sugar. These are found in foods like fruits, juices, maple syrups, milk, yogurt, and honey.
Refined carbohydrates—these are also fast-acting carbohydrates. These are plant-based, processed foods that have had the whole grain removed during processing.
Complex carbohydrates—these carbs take longer for our body to break down and are absorbed into the system more slowly. This helps keep blood sugar stable. Examples of complex carbs include most vegetables, whole grains (unprocessed!) and legumes.
Talk to your healthcare provider
Involve your healthcare provider in your health, prediabetes is a very manageable condition that can be managed and reversed naturally. At this point, it is NOT TOO LATE, if you choose to act.