Updated: Jul 8
As a Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE), that is one question I am asked regularly. Folks need to know the 411 on diabetes and pre-diabetes. People should also know what the difference is between the two. When you hear any version of the word diabetes it can make you feel like you’ve intentionally brought this on yourself. Diabetes isn’t anyone’s fault. Eating and activity play a role in your blood sugar control, but that is just one chapter in the diabetes story.
Normally when you eat, some of your food is broken down into sugar (glucose). Sugar travels in your blood to all of your body’s cells. This is how we get our nutrients and energy. Insulin is a hormone that is made by the cells —it helps sugar move from your blood into your cells in your body. . A second hormone—GLP-1 helps the cells in the pancreas release the right amount of insulin.
When you have diabetes, your pancreas makes little or no insulin. In some folks, the body prevents the insulin you do make from working as it should. The result is that the sugar is not able to get into your cells; it stays in your blood.
After your blood sugar level falls into the following ranges: FGT (fasting glucose test) will be 126 mg/dL or higher, the GTT will be 200mg/dL or greater, and the A1C is 6.5% or higher, you have the diagnosis of type 2 diabetes.
When the doctor tells you that you have pre-diabetes, they can see from lab tests that you have impaired glucose tolerance. Now some may take this with a grain of salt (no pun intended) and think they don’t have to worry. I’m only borderline or have a little bit of sugar. If that is your outlook, you should know that this condition increases the risk of heart disease. In a nutshell pre-diabetes is when your blood sugar (glucose) levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes. When the doctor reviews your blood sugar levels and can see that your fasting glucose test (FGT) is in the range of 100-125mg/dL he or she may be concerned. They may request that you take a glucose tolerance test (GTT); if your results are in the range of 140-199 mg/dL that calls for more concern. Their next step is to measure your average estimated blood sugar over the past 2 to 3 months, known as your A1C range. If the results are in the range of 5.7%-6.4%, you are pre-diabetic.
Risk factors that can lead to pre-diabetes or diabetes include high blood pressure, long term steroid use, and family history, diabetes during pregnancy, being overweight or sedentary. Risk also increases with age especially if you are 45 years or older. You may have diabetes for years and not know it. During this time, the disease may have harmed your eyes, nerves, and kidneys.
The overall result of both types of diabetes is that too much sugar (glucose) is left in your blood. When it is not processed as it should be in your body, it adds up to sugar overload. And too much sugar in the bloodstream can damage nerves and arteries. You will usually feel better and have more energy when your blood sugar stays at or near normal. A plan to aid you in managing your blood sugar can reduce your risk of developing complications that harm other organs.
To reduce your risk for complications, follow a healthy eating plan, stay active, check your blood sugars, take your medication, maintain a healthy weight, and rely on your health care team for credible and accurate information.
Now that you have this overview information, you know how you can control your blood sugar to maintain optimum health. This can help prevent complications such as retinopathy (eyes), nephropathy (kidneys), neuropathy (nervous system) and cardiopathy (heart). Uncontrolled blood sugar can also affect your skin and teeth.
Take Away: Pre-diabetes and diabetes should not be taken lightly. By following the advice of your physician and diabetes educator, the condition can be managed by eating moderate amounts of recommended foods adhering to any prescribed medication, drinking adequate amounts of water and exercising regularly.
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