Is prediabetes bad?

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The term prediabetes was coined in 1997 by the Expert Committee on Diagnoses and Classification of Diabetes Mellitus, but most health care practitioners don’t address any lab abnormality that falls within this definition.  It is more common to wait until it becomes diabetes, then give multiple medications that become lifelong treatments.  To make matters worse, a diagnosis of “diabetes” can affect your ability to obtain life insurance and long term insurance, so why aren’t more practitioners addressing the prediabetic ranges in labwork?  Part of this is because pre diabetes is not actually considered a disease, and there are rarely symptoms associated with higher than normal blood glucose levels.  And, because it is not an actual disease state, it is not recognized by many health professionals and insurance companies.

But you don’t need wait to develop a disease – you can be your own health advocate!  Prediabetes is reversible, and changes in your lifestyle today can determine if you whether you will go on to live a healthy life or progress to diabetes (and all the complications of diabetes such as blindness, Alzheimer’s dementia, heart disease, and more).  Since there are no symptoms with this (including weight gain, which often a stereotype of diabetes), blood testing is often the only way you can evaluate your risk.

It is important to know your HgA1c percentage, to know your fasting insulin levels, to know your fasting glucose, and to look at your “fat storage” of excess glucose in the form of your triglycerides. Other risk factors include high “bad” cholesterol (LDL and triglycerides), low “good” cholesterol (HDL), high blood pressure, family history of diabetes, inactive lifestyle, and poor nutrition choices (e.g. fast food, packaged/processed foods, low vegetable intake, high soda/juice/milk intake).

Take charge of your health now – if not for yourself, but for your family and loved ones!  You can reverse pre diabetes, but diabetes involves the loss of up to 50% of your body’s ability to handle starches and sugar in your diet.  You can still have the occasional sweet treat or starchy meal (ideally only once a week or less), but if you are diabetic, you are less likely to enjoy these simple pleasures in life without inducing harm and risk on your body (something that medications can not protect you from).

 

References:

Diagnosis and classification of diabetes.  American Diabetes Association.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3006051/

CDC overview of prediabetes: https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/basics/prediabetes.html

Johnson J, et al.  Identifying pre diabetes using fasting insulin levels.  Endocrine Practice  (Jan 2010), Vol. 16, No. 1, pp. 47-52.

Link between prediabetes and dementia: http://www.nejm.org/doi/pdf/10.1056/NEJMoa1215740

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About the Author:

Meg McElroy is a PA with over 20 years of experience in the art and practice of functional medicine. She believes the first step in getting better is to embrace your current health situation (rather than dwelling in the past!), and recognize that health is ultimately impacted by our daily habits and choices. Persist and stay patient, give grace to those that are trying to help you on your journey, and remember that health is a journey, not a destination!
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