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Is diabetes in your future?

How to lower your risk

In the United States alone, diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death, with more than 234,000 death certificates listing the condition as an underlying or contributing cause. Nearly 50% of adults living in the U.S. have diabetes or pre-diabetes — and that percentage is expected to increase if current trends continue.

What is pre-diabetes?

Pre-diabetes is indicated by insulin resistance, when your body doesn’t respond as well to the insulin your pancreas produces to regulate your blood sugar levels. Symptoms include increased thirst, feeling tired, blurry vision, cuts that won’t heal and gum inflammation. But there may be no clear symptoms, which is why you’re more like to find out you have pre-diabetes through blood testing.

The American Diabetes Association recommends testing for adults who are overweight or obese and have one or more additional risk factors for diabetes. (In those without risk factors, testing should begin at age 45.)

Risk factors include:

  • Physical inactivity
  • Family history of parent or sibling with diabetes
  • Family background of African American, Alaska Native, Native American, Asian American, Hispanic/Latino or Pacific Islander ancestry
  • Giving birth to a baby weighing more than nine pounds or being diagnosed with gestational diabetes (diabetes occurring during pregnancy)
  • High blood pressure (140/90 mmHg or above) or being treated for high blood pressure
  • HDL cholesterol levels below 35 mg/dL or triglyceride levels above 250 mg/dL
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome
  • Cardiovascular disease

How it’s diagnosed

You’re considered pre-diabetic if your lab results show:

  • A1C reading between 5.7% and 6.4%
  • Fasting blood glucose level between 100 and 125 mg/dL (126 or higher means you are diabetic)
  • Oral glucose tolerance test level between 140 and 199 mg/dL

The good news is that being diagnosed with pre-diabetes doesn’t mean you will automatically develop diabetes. Early treatment, which may include a medication such as metformin, and commitment to lifestyle changes can actually return your blood glucose levels to a normal range.

Lower your risk

If you are pre-diabetic, you can lower your risk for developing diabetes by 58 percent by:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Losing 5-7% percent of your body weight if you’re classed as overweight
  • Exercising moderately (such as brisk walking) 30 minutes a day, five days a week
  • Eating a healthy diet that focuses more on vegetables, fruits, beans, whole grains and unsaturated fats and less focus on processed foods and meats, high-carbohydrate meals, packaged baked goods, foods with refined flour or added sugar, and sugary or sugar-substitute drinks.

These preventive steps apply even if your blood sugar levels are in normal range, since diabetes risk increases with age. It’s important to do whatever you can to stave off diabetes because it often goes hand in hand with or causes a whole host of other medical concerns — including heart disease, high blood pressure, nerve problems, kidney disease, eye problems, higher stroke risk, circulatory problems, higher risk of amputations and skin healing issues. To learn more about how to lower your risk, ask your doctor and turn to the American Diabetes Association.

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