What does Prediabetes Mean?
Prediabetes refers to blood-sugar levels that are higher than normal, but not high enough to be considered type 2 diabetes.
Prediabetes is not usually accompanied by any symptoms . This can make it difficult to diagnose. A blood test performed as part of an annual physical can identify high blood sugar levels.
Prediabetes doesn't have to be a prognosis of impending type 2 diabetes, since studies have shown that not everyone with prediabetes will go on to develop type 2 diabetes. It's not a warning sign that you need to make lifestyle and other changes to reduce your blood sugar, according to Tannaz Moin MD, an endocrinologist at UCLA whose research and practice focuses on diabetes and prediabetes.
Dr. Moin said that prediabetes was a common condition and affects many Americans. "But the good news is that, unlike a lot of conditions, with prediabetes we have really robust evidence and we know what interventions can help lower a patient's risk of developing type 2 diabetes."
Prediabetes is a risk factor for some people. Prediabetes risk factors include:
- Being overweight - Being 45 or older - Having a parent or sibling with type 2 diabetes - Exercising fewer than three times per week - Having had gestational diabetes, or elevated blood sugar, during pregnancy. Age also plays a role in the risk of this condition.
Dr. Moin states that prediabetes is a common condition in the United States once you reach 65.
However, it is possible for younger people to have high blood sugar. U.S. Preventive Services Task Force issued new recommendations in health screening for Americans. In 2021 they revised the diabetes screening guidelines for overweight and obese adults to make it 35 years old.
Dr. Moin says that prediabetes can even be caused by people who exercise and eat right. To assess your risk of prediabetes, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offer an online assessment.
Are there any risks associated with prediabetes Consider normal blood sugars, prediabetes and type 2 diabetes as a continuum, Dr. Moin says.
A diagnosis of prediabetes can increase a person's risk for some of the conditions associated with type 2 diabetes, she says, including cardiovascular disease, kidney disease and eye problems.
Dr. Moin states that there are "risks." Dr. Moin says that although it is much less than when someone with diabetes has or manages poorly, there are still risks.
These risks can be decreased by lifestyle changes and/or medications. UCLA Health offers free support programs for diabetes prevention.
How to reduce risk and potentially reverse prediabetes The CDC developed a national Diabetes Prevention Program to support the kinds of lifestyle changes that reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and even help people with prediabetes revert back to normal blood-sugar levels. UCLA and all other UC campuses have a Diabetes Prevention Program. It has been proven to work, with decades of research backing it.
"If you are overweight or obese and have prediabetes and participate in this structured lifestyle program, you can cut your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by more than half," Dr. Moin says. This program is proven to work.
Individuals who have prediabetes or are obese can participate in the year-long program. Online, 22 sessions are available that focus on lifestyle modifications such as decreasing calories and saturated fat, increased physical activity, and losing just 5%.
Talking about weight loss can seem so overwhelming. "People assume we're talking approximately 50 or more pounds," Dr. Moin states. Although there are many health benefits to losing weight, very little weight loss can make a big difference in reducing diabetes risk.
According to her, losing just 2.2 lbs over the course of three years can lower diabetes risk up to 16%
Diabetes Prevention Program's effectiveness is due to the science-backed curriculum that participants follow, which is led by a coach. As a support system, fellow classmates can also be used. Through weekly walks and recipe swaps, Dr. Moin witnessed deep friendships among the participants of her program.
According to her, it can be very motivating to be part of a team.
Metformin is another option for prediabetic overweight people.
"It's the most commonly prescribed medication for type 2 diabetes," Dr. Moin says.
CDC studies show that metformin lowered the risk of prediabetes developing into type 2 diabetes by about 33%.
UCLA Health has specially trained pharmacists who can consult overweight patients with prediabetes regarding interventions such as the Diabetes Prevention Program or metformin. Dr. Moin states.
She says that pharmacists are involved in "shared decisions making". This involves educating patients on prediabetes, and discussing options to reduce their risk.
There are less evidence-based treatments for prediabetes in people who aren’t obese. Dr. Moin suggests that those with prediabetes should exercise 150 minutes per week, have a healthy diet , and get their health metrics (blood pressure, cholesterol) checked on a regular basis.
She says, "We want them to be extra vigilant with us." They don't need to lose weight, but we might be able to mitigate other risk factors.
Most adults suffering from prediabetes need to lose weight in order to regulate blood sugar levels. However, this is not a long-term solution. Dr. Moin claims that even if weight is lost slowly over a time period, it can have an effect on blood sugar levels for up to ten years.
Prediabetes can be a shock, but it is easy to understand how to treat the condition.
Dr. Moin said, "This is one example where we can take action." "Making lifestyle changes - exercising, eating healthier, getting more activity - lowers your chance of getting type 2 diabetes and improves your quality of life."