The numbers are staggering—60 million people have pre-diabetes, a condition of elevated blood glucose that precedes diabetes. Left untreated, most people with pre-diabetes will develop full-blown diabetes within 10 years. The good news? Acting now to lower your blood glucose through diet and exercise may delay or prevent diabetes.
Many people don’t know they have pre-diabetes because symptoms often develop gradually. Warning signs may include:
- extreme thirst
- frequent urination
- unexplained weight loss
- blurred vision
If you’re overweight and age 45 or older, you should get screened for pre-diabetes. If you’re younger than 45 but either overweight or have other risk factors (see “Are You at Risk for Pre-Diabetes?”), talk to your healthcare provider about having your blood glucose measured. If your child is overweight, discuss additional risk factors, such as ethnicity and family history, with your pediatrician. One study found about a quarter of obese children and teens had pre-diabetes.
Pre-diabetes is a serious condition, and the stakes are high—diabetes can lead to complications such as blindness, nerve damage, amputations and premature death from heart disease, stroke and kidney failure. Studies show that even with pre-diabetes, damage to the heart and blood vessels may already be underway.
Making lifestyle changes can bring your blood glucose level to the normal range and even turn back the clock on the disease’s progression. People with pre-diabetes should:
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- Move! Get at least 30 minutes a day of moderate physical activity.
- Lose weight. Even a modest loss of 5 percent to 10 percent of body weight makes a difference.
- Eat a low-fat, low-calorie diet. Watch portion sizes; eat plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains; avoid saturated fat and trans fats.
- Take heart-smart measures. Quit smoking, control blood pressure and reduce cholesterol.