Prediabetes: A Silent Threat to Your Health

The Mayo Clinic describes prediabetes as when your blood sugar level is higher than normal but not yet high enough to be classified as type 2 diabetes. An estimated 86 million adults – more than 1 in 3 – have prediabetes, and most of these individuals (9 out of 10!) have no idea. Without some reduction in weight and change of life style, it is likely prediabetes will develop into the more advanced type 2 diabetes within 10 years or less. This leads to increased risk of heart disease, stroke, blindness, and kidney failure. If you have prediabetes, the long-term damage of diabetes — especially to your heart and circulatory system — may already be starting.

How do you know if you have prediabetes?

Prediabetes and diabetes can be diagnosed with a simple blood test ordered by your doctor such as:

  • Fasting plasma glucose test —You will need to fast for at least 8 hours and have your blood glucose measured before eating. Your results are interpreted as follows:
    • Normal: 60-99 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL)
    • Prediabetes: 100-125 mg/dL
    • Diabetes: 126 mg/dL or above
  • Oral glucose tolerance test —You will need to fast for at least 8 hours and have your blood glucose measured after the fast. Then you will drink a sugary drink and have your blood glucose measured 2 hours later. Results 2 hours after the drink are usually as follows:
    • Normal: below 140 mg/dL
    • Prediabetes: 140-199 mg/dL
    • Diabetes: 200 mg/dL or above
  • Hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) — A blood test that does not require any fasting. The HbA1c is an indicator of your average blood sugar levels over the previous 2 to 3 months. Your results may be read as follows:
    • Normal: below 5.7%
    • Prediabetes: 5.7%-6.4%
    • Diabetes: 6.5% or above

If you discover you have prediabetes, what can you do to reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes?

The Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP), a major federally funded study of 3,234 people at high risk for diabetes, showed that people can delay and possibly prevent the diabetes by losing just a small amount of weight (5 to 7 percent of total body weight) through 30 minutes of physical activity 5 days a week and healthier eating. While diet and exercise seem to be the answer for most things health related, many of us need more details on what this means. The Center for Disease Control provides the following:

  • A healthy meal plan for people with diabetes is a healthy meal plan for everyone.
    • Choose foods that are high in fiber and low in saturated fats, fats, cholesterol, salt (sodium), and added sugars.
    • Eat a colorful mix of fruits and vegetables, fish, lean meats, chicken or turkey without the skin, dry peas or beans, whole grains, and low-fat or skim milk and cheese.
  • Physical activity is essential for managing diabetes risk and staying healthy.
    • Set small goals to start and work your way up to at least 30 to 60 minutes of physical activity on most days of the week.
    • An example of a good way to move more is brisk walking. Try brisk walking, dancing, swimming, biking, jogging, or any physical activity that helps get your heart rate up. You don’t have to get all your physical activity at one time. Try getting some physical activity throughout the day in 10 minute sessions.

According to the American Diabetes Association, the total estimated cost of diabetes in the U.S. for 2012 was $245 billion (including $176 billion in direct medical costs and $69 billion in reduced work productivity). Care for people with diagnosed diabetes accounts for more than 1 in 5 health care dollars. (See http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/36/4/1033 ) In this time of heated debates over the access to medical care and the rising costs associated with this, a more focused approach by citizens and our government on reducing the number of people with diabetes is likely to have a significant positive impact on both the physical and financial health of our country.

How does diabetes cause reduced work productivity?

In 2009, a study was published in the American Journal of Health Promotion that found being obese and having diabetes predicted on-the-job problems with productivity, mostly in the form of loss time from work. Diabetes affects everyone in different ways, and measures at preventing or reversing the symptoms of diabetes are not always successful. With these individuals, the complications of diabetes may form the basis for many Social Security disability claims each year.

If you are filing for disability on the basis of diabetes, it is important to understand what Social Security is looking for in your medical records to substantiate your claim. In one of our next blogs, we will review these requirements and discuss ways you and your doctor can provide the right kind of information about your condition and the impact it has on your everyday functioning.

For more information on prediabetes, what you can do to reduce your risk, the financial costs of diabetes, and diabetes and disability, visit these sites with links to many more:

http://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/pubs/statsreport14/prediabetes-infographic.pdf

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/prediabetes/basics/definition/con-20024420

http://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/prevention/prediabetes-type2/index.html

http://m.ehstoday.com/health/wellness/obesity-diabetes-interfere-workplace-productivity-0505

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