Prediabetes, often a silent precursor to type 2 diabetes, affects a significant portion of the Australian population. This condition, characterised by higher-than-normal blood sugar levels, is a crucial health concern, particularly for those with a family history of diabetes.
In this article you will learn:
What is Prediabetes?
Prediabetes is a health condition where blood sugar levels are elevated but not high enough to be classified as type 2 diabetes. It’s a critical stage that indicates a heightened risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. For some, it may be seen as scary or alarming, however it can also be an incredible opportunity to improve the course of your health. ()
In Australia, it’s estimated that more than 2 million adults have prediabetes. The condition is especially concerning because it can progress to type 2 diabetes, leading to more severe health complications like nerve damage, kidney disease, and an increased risk of cardiovascular events. That’s why responding to this alarm bell is so critically important! ()
What are Prediabetes Symptoms?
Prediabetes often manifests with subtle or no symptoms, making regular health check-ups vital. However, some individuals may experience signs such as:
- Increased Thirst and Frequent Urination: High blood sugar levels can lead to these symptoms.
- Fatigue: Often a result of the body’s inability to use sugar effectively for energy.
- Blurred Vision: Caused by temporary changes in fluid levels due to high blood sugar. ()
Recognising these symptoms can be challenging, as they are often mild and easily overlooked. This is why pre diabetes often goes undiagnosed until it’s too late.
What is the Prediabetes Range?
The prediabetes range is determined by any blood sugar / blood glucose level tests. It is characterised by levels being higher than the normal range as shown by the following:
- Impaired Fasting Glucose test (IFG): Levels from 6.1 to 6.9 mmol/L are considered prediabetes.
- Impaired Glucose Tolerance (IGT) defined in an Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (OGTT): A reading between 7.8 and 11.0 mmol/L two hours after the test indicates prediabetes.
- HbA1c Test: An HbA1c level between 6.0% and 6.4% is classified as prediabetes.()
It is possible to show IFG and IGT at the same time. These tests are crucial for early detection and the subsequent management of the condition.
How to Manage Prediabetes
Pre diabetes requires a multidisciplinary approach to its treatment which is led by the General Practitioner. For those that may be asking the question; ‘can you reverse prediabetes?’ The exciting answer is yes! Effective management and the subsequent reversal of prediabetes may further involve a dietitian, an exercise physiologist and other allied health professionals. Successful strategies may look like:
Dietary Changes: Emphasising a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. Reducing intake of processed foods and sugary drinks is also important.
Regular Physical Activity: Engaging in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per week, such as walking, swimming, or cycling.
Weight Management: Losing 5-10% of body weight can significantly improve blood sugar levels and overall health.
Quit smoking. ()
Adopting these lifestyle changes can not only manage prediabetes but also reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Who is at Risk?
The risk factors for prediabetes are closely related to the ones documented for type 2 diabetes as it is a precursor for the condition. They are separated into modifiable and non-modifiable risk factors:
Modifiable Risk Factors:
- Being Overweight or living with Obesity: Excess body weight, particularly around the abdomen, is a significant risk factor.
- Sedentary Lifestyle: Lack of physical activity contributes to the development of prediabetes.
- Poor Diet: A diet high in processed foods and sugar increases the risk.
- Having High Blood Pressure
Non-Modifiable Risk Factors:
- Family History: A family history of diabetes increases the risk.
- Age: The risk increases with age, particularly for those over 45.
- Ethnicity: Certain ethnic groups such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, North African, South-East Asian and Arabic are at a higher risk of developing prediabetes.
- Women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) ()
Understanding these risk factors is crucial for early intervention and prevention.
As we have highlighted throughout this blog, preventing diabetes and further pre diabetes can be a gamechanger for the future of your health. Preventing prediabetes involves:
- Regular Health Screenings: Especially important for those with risk factors.
- Healthy Lifestyle Choices: Including a balanced diet and regular exercise.
- Stress Management: Chronic stress can impact blood sugar levels, so managing stress effectively is important. ()
Prediabetes is a silent but significant health concern that warrants attention and action. By understanding its causes, recognising subtle prediabetes symptoms, and adopting healthier lifestyle choices, individuals can significantly reduce their risk and take control of their health. Early intervention is key, so regular check-ups and open communication with healthcare providers are essential in maintaining good health and preventing the progression to type 2 diabetes.