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Keeping Your Sugar Levels In Check

Asma Khan, MD
Asma Khan, MD Photo Credit: Sun River Health

With the holiday season just around the corner, it’s safe to say that many of us indulge in a little more sugar than usual at this time of year. Being responsible with sugar intake is important, as many of us may be prediabetic or at risk of prediabetes without knowing. Let’s talk a little bit about what prediabetes is, its causes and risk factors, and how to prevent and treat it.

What is Prediabetes?

Prediabetes is a pre-diagnosis or “warning sign” of diabetes. It happens when your blood glucose (sugar) level is higher than normal, but not high enough to be considered diabetes. Being diagnosed with prediabetes is an indication that you may develop type 2 diabetes if you don’t make some lifestyle changes.

Diabetes develops very gradually, so when you’re in the prediabetic stage, you may not show any obvious symptoms. However, some tell-tale signs of prediabetes include:

  • Being hungrier and thirstier than normal
  • Losing weight, despite eating more
  • More frequent urges to use the bathroom
  • Increased level of tiredness

Causes and Risk Factors

Prediabetes happens when your body starts to have trouble producing insulin, which is what your body uses to transport glucose. There are several risk factors that make it more likely for your body to have problems producing insulin, including:

  • Being overweight, especially if you carry extra weight in your abdomen
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Having a family history of prediabetes
  • Race – African, Hispanic, Asian, and Native Americans are at a higher risk
  • Gestational diabetes (developing diabetes while pregnant)
  • Having high blood pressure or high cholesterol

Prevention and Treatment

Serious lifestyle changes can help prevent type 2 diabetes, even if you’ve already been diagnosed as prediabetic, including:

  • Eating well, and possibly working with a dietitian or certified diabetes educator to create a healthy meal plan that fits your needs
  • Regular exercise, allowing your body to use more glucose
  • If you’re overweight, starting a weight loss program as soon as you’re diagnosed
  • In some cases, your doctor prescribing a medication, such as metformin

Prediabetes: What You Need to Know

Your doctor may want to test your blood glucose level every three years, starting when you’re 45. Your risk of developing prediabetes increases as you age, so it’s a good idea to stay on top of any blood glucose problems early. A fasting plasma glucose test or an oral glucose tolerance test can check for prediabetes. Speak with your doctor to learn more about these tests, and which one might be right for you.

Remember to eat healthy, stay active, and don’t go overboard with the sugar this holiday season!