Healthy Aging

Prediabetes – A Hidden Condition

About 1 in 3 Americans have the condition, but many don’t know it. So, when their doctor says “You have prediabetes” they’re often surprised and puzzled.

As the name suggests, prediabetes ups your risk of getting Type 2 diabetes. Prediabetes is defined as a higher than normal blood sugar level—in other words, a level that’s not healthy but not bad enough to be labeled diabetes. (One way to diagnose it is by a blood test that captures the last 2 or 3 months of your blood sugar readings, a test known as hemoglobin A1C, or A1C for short. If it is  5.7 to 6.4, that is prediabetes.)

The Unknowns of Prediabetes

The unknowns? How fast you will travel that path from prediabetes to diabetes, how high your blood sugar will go, and whether your blood sugar will ”magically” return to normal.

In one study, researchers followed more than 3,400 older adults diagnosed with prediabetes for more than six years.  They found that more people returned to normal blood sugar levels (or died, not from all causes) than progressed to diabetes. However, the average age in that study was more than 75 years.  In a more recent study, Scottish researchers followed some 160,000 adults with Type 2 diabetes and found only one in 20 reversed their diabetes.

Is Prediabetes Reversible? 

What is also known–prediabetes can be reversed. And it doesn’t take upending your entire routine, according to Samuel Dagogo-Jack,MD, DSc,  chief of the division of endocrinology, metabolism and diabetes at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Memphis.

What was found in the Diabetes Prevention Program [a landmark study] is that modest changes to lifestyle, modest changes to physical activity and careful thought to what you eat is what it takes to stall diabetes.

Dagogo-Jack, a long-time diabetes researcher who just wrote a textbook on prediabetes, is on a mission. “We can prevent prediabetes from progressing and we can also reverse it,” he says. He offers encouragement, even to those whose prediabetes is teetering dangerously close to diabetes. “What we are finding is, it is never too late” to work on that blood sugar level.

Prediabetes risk

Who’s at risk of prediabetes? According to the CDC, if you’re overweight, 45 years or older, have a sibling or parent with Type 2 diabetes, or are African American, Hispanic/Latino American, American Indian or Alaska Native, Pacific islander or Asian American you’re at increased risk. However, when it comes to ethnicity, Dagogo-Jack says the prevalence among different groups has not been definitively defined, as some surveys rely on self report. Among experts, he says, ”there is a move away from ethnicity to family history” when assessing patients’ risks for prediabetes.

Turn Around Prediabetes

Among the other actions that Dagogo-Jack advises to turn around prediabetes:

  • Eat less fried food, less fatty food and fewer carbs than you do now.
  • Eat more vegetables and more fiber.
  • Make water your preferred beverage.
  • Avoid anything dipped in oil.
  • Increase physical activity; set a weight loss goal if you’re overweight. Losing 5-7% of body weight and adding 150 minutes of exercise a week can slash the risk of getting diabetes by 71% for those 60-plus, the CDC says.
  • Get counseling from your healthcare provider, a dietitian or other expert on how to personalize a plan for you.
  • If you feel overwhelmed, focus on a change at a time. A good starting point? Ditch the sugar-flavored soda.

The American Diabetes Association also has a list of action steps to stall prediabetes. It’s a list worth sharing with a partner or other loved one who might be struggling.

 

This article offered by Senior Planet and Older Adults Technology Services is for informational purposes only and is not intended to substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding any medical condition. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately.

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