Meet Aggrey, a 47-year-old man who has spent 15 years of his life working behind a desk. He has grown overweight, what with a lifestyle that as he claims, does not allow him time to work out.
“All I do is sit and work at my computer, scheduling meetings and attending most of them. This is what makes up my life and I know it’s not right. I fear that if I don’t do something, I could get sick!”
Aggrey is right and when he went in for his third wellness checkup, his doctor gave him a prediabetes diagnosis. “Prediabetes?”
What is prediabetes?
This is a condition in which your blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be type 2 diabetes.
The normal blood sugar range for people without diabetes is between 4% and 5%. When it increases to between 5.7% and 6.4%, you have a high chance of developing diabetes. This is the range at which one is diagnosed with prediabetes; the range at which Aggrey’s blood sugar level was. Levels above 6.5% mean you are diabetic.
To get a diagnosis, your doctor will likely consider an average report of tests taken over two to three months.
How do you know if you have prediabetes?
Prediabetes generally has no symptoms. We, therefore, advise that you get regular wellness checkups especially if you are at risk of developing it to enable early treatment.
Are there risk factors that can lead to prediabetes?
Aggrey represents many people whose lifestyles have led them to develop prediabetes. There are however various other risk factors that can lead to its development. These are;
- Weight — Being overweight or obese increases your chances of developing prediabetes. Increased weight, especially around your belly, is a risk factor.
- Large waist — Men with waists larger than 45 inches and women with waists larger than 35inches risk developing diabetes. This is because the extra fat cells around your waist can cause your body to become insulin resistant.
- Gestational diabetes — Having diabetes while pregnant increases the risk of developing the illness later in life. Additionally, if you’ve had a baby weighing more than 4 kgs at birth, he/she risks developing the illness.
- Inactivity — Lack of exercise or physical inactivity contributes to an increase in weight and is also a risk factor of prediabetes.
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) — You risk developing prediabetes if you have PCOS.
- Age–As you age, the chances of developing prediabetes also increase. People who are 45 years or older, like Agrrey, are therefore at a higher risk.
- Sleep problems — Cases of sleep apnea and inconsistent sleep patterns such as those experienced by people working shift hours also increase the risk factor.
- Family history — Prediabetes is hereditary. Having a parent or sibling with type 2 diabetes puts you at risk of developing it.
- Blood pressure — If you have high blood pressure or take medication for it, you could be at risk as well.
- Low HDL cholesterol and/or high triglycerides also place you at a high risk of developing prediabetes.
When to get tested for Prediabetes
As we mentioned earlier, prediabetes does not show actual symptoms, so as medics, we advise you to schedule regular wellness checkups every once or twice a year for you and your family. We, however, cannot rule out certain instances when either one of you may need to hasten a glucose screening test. These are:
- If you have heart disease.
- If you show signs of insulin resistance- This happens when your body produces insulin but fails to respond to it as it should.
- If you notice darkening of the skin around the neck, elbows, knees, armpits and knuckles.
Does Prediabetes always Progress to Diabetes?
Statistics show that 70% of people who get diagnosed with prediabetes eventually develop diabetes. Obviously, the sure way to know is by getting your blood sugar tested.
But there are symptoms that your doctor will check with you during your diagnosis to know if your condition has developed to diabetes. These are:
- Increased thirst
- Frequent urination
- Blurred vision
Find out as much as you can from your doctor and share any concerns you may have about this condition.
1. If you have prediabetes, you should have screening for diabetes annually.
2. To have Bp monitoring at least once weekly.
3. To check weight measurements at least once weekly.
Prediabetes is best managed through lifestyle changes. The objective for this, as your doctor will advise, is to prevent or delay diabetes. There are various ways this can be done:
Diet — Incorporate more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and olive oil in your food.
- Go for foods that are low in fat and calories, and those that are high in fibre.
- Replace sugary drinks with water, coffee and tea.
There are numerous ways you can make this lifestyle transition and still serve nutritious and tasty meals for your family.
Exercise — Try a mild work out to keep your body active for at least 30 minutes every day or most days.
Weight — If you are overweight or obese, try to lose some weight by working out and change your eating habits. Aim to lose up to 9kgs and keep up the weight-loss plan until you reach your goal.
Smoking — Stop smoking.
Medication — If you are at a very high risk of developing prediabetes, your doctor may prescribe medicine to control your cholesterol and high blood pressure. This helps to prevent or delay progression.
Children with prediabetes need to also undertake similar lifestyle changes as adults to contain and prevent diabetes. We, however, do not recommend medicine to be administered to them.
At worst, untreated prediabetes can lead to type 2 diabetes. This can further lead to complications such as:
- Heart disease
- Kidney disease
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
Aggrey decided to make healthy life choices and got into a workout program. He cut down on red meat and takes more fruits. He has lost a substantial amount of weight and today, he enjoys a healthy lifestyle.
Prediabetes is a warning illness that requires you to take action now. Fortunately, you can start with small steps and avoid its acceleration into diabetes. Be active, eat a healthy and encourage your family members to visit your healthcare centre for regular wellness checkups. A step in the right direction can make save generations from avoidable illness