Robins Health Promotions: Prediabetes explained

  • Published
  • By Holly Logan-Arrington
  • Robins Public Affairs

As people age, the list of health conditions they could develop grows.

One health condition that is not often talked about is prediabetes.

Kendra Hill, Robins Air Force Base Health Promotions dietitian, said one in three adults in the U.S. has pre-diabetes.

“Prediabetes is a condition where your blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to be diagnosed as Type 2 diabetes,” she said. “More specifically, insulin, a hormone made by your pancreas, acts as a key to let blood sugar into cells to use for energy. If you have prediabetes, the cells in your body don’t respond normally to insulin.”

Hill said the pancreas makes more insulin to try to get cells to respond.

“Eventually your pancreas can’t keep up, your blood sugar rises, and you are now a pre-diabetic with potential for developing diabetes,” she said.

People with prediabetes have a fasting blood sugar test of 100-125 mg/dL and an A1C between 5.7 and 6.4%, Hill explained. The A1C test measures a person’s average blood sugar level over the past two to three months.

While these are indicators, Hill said some people do not keep a close watch on their blood sugar levels.

“You may have prediabetes for years with no clear symptoms, so it often goes undetected until serious health problems such as Type 2 diabetes show up,” she said.

Hill said it’s important to know your numbers.

“It is important to talk to your doctor about having your blood sugar tested if you have any of the risk factors for prediabetes such as being overweight, being 45 years or older, having a parent, brother, sister or other immediate family members with history of Type 2 diabetes, if you are physically active less than three times a week, if you’ve ever had gestational diabetes, or if you have polycystic ovary syndrome,” Hill said.

Race and ethnicity can also be a factor. African Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, American Indians, Pacific Islanders, and some Asian Americans are at higher risk, Hill said.

If people do not make changes, their health will only get worse, Hill said.

“If you don’t take charge and start making lifestyle changes while prediabetic, you will most likely become a diabetic within the next five years,” she said.  “Diabetes is currently the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S. today. It also puts you at risk for heart attack, stroke, blindness, kidney failure and loss of toes, feet, or legs.”

With the right changes though, Hill said people can head off diabetes.

“If you have prediabetes, it is absolutely possible to prevent yourself from becoming diabetic,” she said.  “If you are overweight, it is important to lose even a small amount of weight. It is also important to participate in regular physical activity.”

The Centers for Disease Control recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise spread throughout a week.

Hill said eating a healthy, well-balanced diet full of non-starchy vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and lean- and plant-based protein is also essential.

“Other important lifestyle changes include reducing stress, limiting alcohol consumption and tobacco, and getting support from people with similar goals and challenges,” she said.

Robins Health Promotions offers monthly diabetes management and prevention classes, fitness improvement classes, body composition analysis, sleep hygiene classes and more.

For more information on how you can better manage your health and avoid developing prediabetes or Type 2 diabetes, contact your primary care physician, disease managers or Kendra Hill at 478-222-7237.