Diabetes is a disease where blood sugar levels are too high. More than 30 million people of all ages — nearly 10 percent of the U.S. population — have diabetes and more than 25 percent of adults aged 65 years have diabetes.
Diabetes is associated with many serious health complications. It increases your chances to develop heart disease, blindness, nerve pain, kidney failure and amputations, especially of lower extremities such as toes or an entire foot (and that’s only a partial list).
Diabetes is also a killer and the seventh leading cause of death in the United States.
Before you are diagnosed with diabetes, however, you likely have prediabetes. If you have a blood sugar level higher than normal, but not high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes, you have prediabetes.
The potential is there that you will develop Type 2 diabetes and all the serious health problems associated with diabetes.
While many people have heard of diabetes, fewer are aware of prediabetes. According to the American Diabetes Association, 86 million Americans (more than one in three) have prediabetes.
The numbers get worse; nearly 90 percent of people with prediabetes don’t know they have it and aren’t aware of the long-term health risks. Those health risks included a higher risk for heart attack, stroke, blindness and amputation, especially of toes or feet.
Estimates are that 15 to 30 percent of people with prediabetes will develop Type 2 diabetes within 5 years.
However, prediabetes often can be reversed through losing weight, changing your diet and increasing your levels of physical activity.
Working with your physician is important. Physicians can more accurately provide guidance of steps to take to avoid prediabetes.
Usually, a diagnosis of prediabetes is a stimulus to start making lifestyle changes; often, once people are aware of their condition, they are far more motivated to start making necessary changes.
Some people have higher risk factors for prediabetes other than high blood sugar. These prediabetes risk factors include being older than 45; being overweight or obese; having a family history of diabetes; and some racial or ethnic heritages.
Those include being African-American, Hispanic or Latino, Native American, Asian American or Pacific Islander.
And lack of physically activity (less than three times a week) increases the risk for everyone for prediabetes. Discuss this with your physician.
While proper sleep habits and activity are factors in helping to avoid diabetes, good nutrition plays the most important role to avoid diabetes. A well-balanced and nutritious diet is the foundation of maintaining peak performance and good health.
Maintaining healthy eating habits will help improve your quality of life as you age, reduce your risk of heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis and other debilitating diseases, protect your immune system and it can help avoid prediabetes.
If you suspect that you may have prediabetes, please contact your primary care provider who can make a referral to Madigan Army Medical Center’s Diabetes Care Center.