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How to Protect Yourself from Prediabetes

Health Hub
Author name: Lee Health

PreDiabetes Graphic

About 88 million American adults have prediabetes. Unfortunately, more than 8 in 10 people with prediabetes don’t know they have it. This serious health condition can lead to type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.

“You can have prediabetes for years but have no obvious symptoms,” says registered nurse Annette McClenahan, a Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist with Lee Health’s Diabetes Outpatient and Diabetes Prevention Program. “Often, it goes undetected until you develop serious health problems.”

In observance of Diabetes Awareness Month this November, McClenahan shares how we can prevent or delay the progression from prediabetes to type 2 diabetes by modifying our lifestyle.

What is prediabetes?

Prediabetes means your blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes, McClenahan says.

“Insulin is a hormone your pancreas makes,” she explains. “Insulin is like a key that lets blood sugar into cells for use as energy. In people with prediabetes, the cells in your body don’t respond normally to insulin.  Your pancreas keeps making more insulin to try to get the cells to respond.”

Eventually, she says, instead of going to the cells, the blood sugar (glucose) remains in your bloodstream, setting the stage for prediabetes—and maybe type 2 diabetes later on.

Signs and symptoms

People who have genetic or lifestyle risk factors are more likely to develop insulin resistance or prediabetes, McClenahan notes. That’s why it’s important to talk with your doctor about getting your blood sugar tested if you have any of the following risk factors for prediabetes, which include:

  • Being overweight
  • Being 45 years or older
  • Having a parent, brother, or sister with type 2 diabetes
  • Being physically active fewer than three times a week
  • Ever having gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy) or giving birth to a baby who weighed more than 9 pounds

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Also, race and ethnicity are factors. Blacks, Hispanic/Latino Americans, American Indians, Pacific Islanders, and some Asian Americans are at higher risk, according to the CDC.

How to prevent or reverse insulin resistance and prediabetes

People with prediabetes have up to a 50 percent chance of developing diabetes over the next 5 to 10 years. By taking steps to manage your prediabetes, you can prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes.

“You can’t change risk factors such as family history, age, or ethnicity, but you can change lifestyle risk factors around eating, physical activity, and weight,” McClenahan says. “These lifestyle changes may help your body better respond to insulin, which can lower your chances of developing insulin resistance and prediabetes.”

According to a study conducted by the National Institutes of Health, people at high risk of developing diabetes who lost 5 to 7 percent of their weight when they started the program reduced their chance of developing the disease. For someone who weighs 200 pounds, that’s about 10 to 14 pounds. To lose the weight, people in the study changed their diet and became more physically active.

“Regular physical activity means getting at least 150 minutes a week of brisk walking or a similar activity,” McClenahan says. “That’s 30 minutes a day, five days a week. You’ll feel better, lose weight, and improve your overall health and quality of life.”

Could you have prediabetes? Take an online test to find out

If you’re ready to find out your risk for prediabetes, McClenahan suggests the 1-minute prediabetes risk test of the CDC. Be sure to share the results with your doctor.

Finding hope and solutions

Without weight loss and physical activity, approximately 15 to 30 percent of people with prediabetes will develop type 2 diabetes within five years. Type 2 diabetes is one of the fastest-growing diseases in the United States and can lead to other health issues such as kidney failure, heart attack, blindness, or loss of toes, feet, or legs.

But Lee Health can help you make long-lasting lifestyle adjustments that can improve your quality of life. Read on to learn more about which program may be right for you!

Lee Health Diabetes Prevention Program

This diabetes prevention program can help you make modest lifestyle changes and cut your risk of type 2 diabetes by more than half.

Part of the CDC’s National Diabetes Prevention Program, the workshop will teach you:

  • About the benefits of physical activity
  • How to manage symptoms of stress
  • How to make smarter decisions related to healthy eating
  • Tips to stay motivated, the skills you need to lose weight, how to be more physically active, and how to manage stress

You’ll also get:

  • A trained lifestyle coach to guide and encourage you
  • Support from other participants having similar goals as you
  • A yearlong program with weekly meetings for the first six months, then once or twice a month for the second six months

The Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) is a covered benefit for Medicare and some commercial insurance plans.

Get in touch with a program navigator by calling 239-424-3127 (Fort Myers/Cape Coral) or 239-468-0051 (Bonita Springs/Estero) to learn more.

Lee Health Solutions Weight Management Program

Learn how to properly fuel and nourish your body by making real, lasting changes for a new lifestyle to reach a healthy weight with Lee Health Solutions’ registered dietitians.

Our experts work one-on-one with you to craft an individualized approach to nutrition. The dietitians are agents of change and here to retain accountability for your health and nutrition goals.

To learn more or to schedule your appointment, call Lee Health Solutions at 239-424-3120 (Fort Myers/Cape Coral) or 239-468-0051 (Bonita Springs/Estero).

Lee Health’s Healthy Life Centers

For National Diabetes Month, Lee Health Healthy Life Centers are bringing awareness to diabetes in our community via a virtual education series through the end of November.

Sign up here for Healthy Life Center virtual classes to learn alongside our health professionals and take control of your health.