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Take the path to prevention

Sometimes, if we're lucky, we get a heads-up about a potential problem — like a traffic jam ahead — that allows us to change course and go in a different direction. Learning you have prediabetes is a little like that.

Prediabetes means your blood glucose (sugar) levels are higher than normal, but not high enough for a type 2 diabetes diagnosis.

"It's called prediabetes because almost everyone who has type 2 diabetes had prediabetes first," says Michelle Helton, D.O., a family medicine provider at Lake Regional Clinic – Camdenton. "But there's good news: Not everyone who has prediabetes will progress to full-blown diabetes. Prevention is still possible."

In fact, if you're diagnosed with prediabetes, it's crucial to know this: You can often reverse prediabetes by making a few changes in your eating and exercise habits that will put you on a route to a healthier life.

Are you at risk for prediabetes?

Many people have prediabetes without realizing it because the condition doesn't cause symptoms. The only way to know for sure is with a simple blood test. Talk to your health care provider about being tested if you have any of these risk factors:

  • You're overweight.
  • You're at least 45 years old.
  • Your parent or sibling has type 2 diabetes.
  • You are physically active fewer than three times a week.
  • You ever gave birth to a baby that weighed more than 9 pounds.
  • You had gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy).

Turn it around

In addition to raising your risk of type 2 diabetes, prediabetes also makes you more vulnerable to having heart disease or a stroke.

That's why it's important to make lifestyle changes that can return your blood sugar levels to the normal range and significantly lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Those changes include:

Losing 7% of your body weight if you're overweight. For someone weighing 200 pounds, that's a loss of 14 pounds.

Exercising moderately. You don't have to join a gym. Moderate exercise can be as uncomplicated as taking a brisk walk at least five days a week.

Eating a healthy diet. Focus on foods such as vegetables, fruit, whole grains, lean protein (think fish and chicken) and low-fat dairy products. Cut back on processed, fried and fatty foods. Choose water instead of sugary drinks.

"This is your chance to make a change," Dr. Helton says. "Type 2 diabetes is an ongoing disease — there is no cure. Prevention must be the priority."

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