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Prediabetes: the calm before the storm

December 09, 2016

Meteorologists can inform us of impending weather. Doctors often do the same with our health, telling us when we’re at risk for a serious disease.

One example of a condition your doctor can often detect is diabetes and prediabetes. There are different types of diabetes. It can strike in one of three ways.

Type 1 diabetes

Previously called juvenile-onset diabetes, type 1 usually begins in children or young adulthood. It occurs when the pancreas doesn’t make enough insulin — or makes no insulin at all. That’s why people with type 1 need to regularly take insulin, often through daily injections. Only about five percent of adults diagnosed with diabetes have type 1.

Type 2 diabetes

This is the most common type of diabetes. About 90 to 95 percent of adults diagnosed with diabetes have type 2. It was once called adult-onset diabetes, but it’s increasingly being found in children. “Type 2 occurs when the pancreas doesn’t make enough insulin or doesn’t use it properly,” says Baker Machhadieh, MD, an endocrinologist with Joslin Diabetes Center at the Hamilton Health Center in Hamilton. “Genetics, diet and inactivity are all probable causes. Medicines and sometimes insulin are needed to treat it.”

Gestational diabetes

Some women who have never had diabetes develop it during pregnancy. Gestational diabetes usually resolves once the baby is born. However, it increases the mother’s risk for future type 2 diabetes—as well as the baby’s risk if the mother isn’t treated.

Prediabetes

If you’ve been diagnosed with prediabetes, it means you have a blood glucose (sugar) level that is creeping toward a very unsafe level. “Your level isn’t high enough to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, but it is abnormally high,” says Yassin Mustafa, MD, an endocrinologist with Joslin Diabetes Center at Southview Medical Center in Centerville. “Prediabetes is a warning sign that shouts, ‘Pay attention! Danger ahead!’ That’s because your risk of developing diabetes is increased with prediabetes. Once you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, it doesn’t go away.”

If you act now, you can slow your progression toward diabetes. You may even be able to prevent it altogether.

Take a safer route

By taking positive steps now to control prediabetes, you can put yourself on the path to better health.

To cut your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 58 percent:

• Lose seven percent of your body weight, which is about 15 pounds if you weigh 200 pounds.

• Exercise moderately — take a brisk walk, for example — for 30 minutes a day, five days a week.

Know your numbers

You can’t always count on symptoms—prediabetes and diabetes usually have none at first. Ask your doctor about simple blood tests that can reveal if your glucose levels are within normal limits.