• Health & Wellness

    Avoiding Progression to Type 2 Diabetes

sugar cubes representing glucose and diabetes
ST. PETER, Minn. — Most people are aware how serious diabetes is and whether type 1 or type 2, it's especially harmful when not properly managed. There's also a form of the disease called prediabetes which, according to the National Diabetes Education Program, affects approximately 79 million adults in the United States. Mayo Clinic Health System family medicine physician Nadia Malik, M.D. answers several questions about this disease that can be prevented.

Q. What is prediabetes?

A. First, we need to understand what diabetes is. Diabetes is a group of diseases that results from insufficient production of or resistance to a hormone called insulin. There are several types of diabetes, all of which are a result of blood sugar (glucose) levels being excessively high.

Prediabetes is essentially a warning sign for Type 2 diabetes. It occurs when blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not elevated to the point of Type 2 diabetes. Although not yet classified as diabetes, prediabetes may be already damaging your body.

Q. What are the symptoms?

A. Prediabetes doesn’t cause symptoms in most cases. One sign that may indicate a risk of diabetes is darkening of the skin on your neck, armpits, elbows, knees and knuckles.

Symptoms of Type 2 diabetes include:

  • Excessive thirst
  • Fatigue
  • Frequent urination
  • Vision problems

Testing for prediabetes is the best way to catch the condition. Get tested for prediabetes if you are overweight, have family history of Type 2 diabetes, have high blood pressure, are 45 years old or older, or if you are not regularly physically active.

Consulting with your health care provider is always a good starting point if you have concerns.

Q. What are the risks?

A. Risks for prediabetes are parallel with those of Type 2 diabetes, which include:

  • Obesity
  • Inactivity
  • Older age — particularly over 45
  • Genetic disposition
  • History of gestational diabetes while pregnant
  • Lack of sleep or too much sleep

Q. How can you prevent or reverse prediabetes?

A. Prevention and elimination of prediabetes is possible. Here are a few quick tips:

  • Eat a healthy diet. Stop consuming high-fat, high-calorie foods and opt for fruits, vegetables and whole grains. The more fiber, the better.
  • Exercise. Simply exercising for 30 minutes five days per week does wonders for your health. A walk around the neighborhood or gardening count — exercise doesn’t have to be overly strenuous. According to the American Diabetes Association, you can lower your risk for Type 2 diabetes by 58 percent by moderately exercising for 150 minutes each week.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Try to lose excess pounds and maintain a healthy weight by balancing physical activity and proper nutrition.

“Prediabetes can lead to Type 2 diabetes if left untreated. There’s a whole host of complications associated with diabetes, including high blood pressure and cholesterol, heart disease, stroke, blindness and amputations. So, prevention is key,” says Dr. Malik.

If you feel you’re at risk for prediabetes, talk to your health care provider right away. Either way, following these tips will help you lower your risk for diabetes and allow you to lead a healthier life overall.