As many as 60 million people in the United States have prediabetes, yet more than 90 percent of them don’t know it. People with prediabetes usually have no symptoms, and many who learn about their prediabetes think it’s no big deal.
"People do not take this as seriously as they need to," says Ann Albright, PhD, RD, director of the Division of Diabetes Translation at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. "The good news is there is something you can do about it," Dr. Albright adds.
The best way to fight prediabetes and get your blood sugar back in the normal range is with a coordinated plan of healthy nutrition, increased physical activity and lifestyle coping strategies that support modest weight loss if you are overweight. (Modest weight loss is defined as losing 5 to 10 percent of body weight.) Research shows that following such a plan not only reduces diabetes risk, but does it better than using medication. Improvements in glucose levels may be seen in as little as three months.
If you have prediabetes, you need to start making lifestyle changes quickly. There's a window of only about three to six years in which you can turn around elevated glucose levels, Dr. Albright says.
Know your risk
Anyone who is overweight and 45 or older should be tested for prediabetes, advises the American Diabetes Association. If you're in that age category and of normal weight, ask your doctor if testing would be appropriate.
Younger overweight women also might need testing if they have: a family history of diabetes, high blood pressure, low HDL cholesterol and high triglycerides, had gestational diabetes or gave birth to a baby weighing more than 9 pounds. Those in ethnic groups with high risk (African American, Native American, Hispanic, Asian) also should talk with their health care providers.
"You need to know your risk status to take preventive steps," Dr. Albright says.