For almost half of the population, the answer is – probably, unless you do something now to prevent it.
A new report estimates that about 40% of Americans have prediabetes. That means they experience high blood sugars, just not consistently and often enough as someone with diabetes.
So, how do you know if you are part of this 40%?
Get your fasting blood sugar checked. On an empty stomach a normal morning blood sugar is less than 100. Between 100-126 is prediabetes and above 126 is diabetes. Remember that your blood sugar level is a spot check in time. If your doctor thinks you’re at risk for diabetes, she may also get your A1C level tested. This number tells you how your blood sugars are trending over time. If your A1C is between 5.7 and 6.4%, you have prediabetes. If it’s above 6.4%, you have diabetes.
How often you get these tests depends on your risk factors for diabetes. It could be every few months or every three years. Your risk increases if you have high blood pressure, high cholesterol and are overweight or obese. It also increases with age and is a bigger problem with certain ethnicities. Your doctor will want to know if you had diabetes during a pregnancy, are diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome or have a family history of diabetes.
If your numbers show that you are in the prediabetes range, don’t panic! If you start making changes now, you can postpone and even prevent getting diabetes for decades.
What can you do?
1. Lose some weight if you are overweight or obese. You don’t need to immediately get to your ideal weight to prevent diabetes. Losing 7% of your body weight will reduce your risk of progressing to diabetes by more than 50%. For a woman that’s 5’5” and 170lbs, that means losing 12lbs. A few changes in your diet can get you there. Add greens, cut your portion sizes, cut the sugar, cut the saturated fat. Check out the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet for ideas to start changing your diet one step at a time.
2. Walk or do some kind of exercise for 30 minutes, 5 days per week. You want an exercise program that does three things: pumps your heart, strengthens your muscles, and improves your flexibility. Not only will you risk of diabetes drop, but also your risk of heart disease.
3. Ask your doctor if you should start medication. A recent study showed that less than 5% of people with prediabetes are prescribed metformin even though the drug has been shown to prevent getting diabetes. This is particularly important if you’re under 60, are obese, or have a history of diabetes during your pregnancy.
What’s the bottom line? If you think diabetes is in your future, do something now. You can prevent progressing to diabetes by taking care of yourself now.