One in three U.S. adults are prediabetic, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Prediabetes can cause long-term damage - especially to the heart and circulatory system - as well as other serious symptoms. Without intervention, many patients with prediabetes will develop Type 2 diabetes in the upcoming five years, according to the American Diabetes Association.
The good news is that progression from prediabetes to Type 2 diabetes isn't inevitable. You can prevent, or at least postpone, conversion to diabetes.
We sat down with Damon Tanton, MD, endocrinologist at Florida Hospital, to ask a few questions about prediabetes and Type 2 diabetes. Below are his responses.
So, what is prediabetes?
Prediabetes, or insulin resistance, is a condition where your blood sugar levels are higher than normal, especially after meals, but not high enough to be classified as Type 2 diabetes.
What are the signs or symptoms of prediabetes?
The most common symptoms of insulin resistance are:
Weight gain, especially around your mid-section.
Sleepiness after carbohydrate-rich meals
Lightheadedness or weakness when fasting
Unexplained irritability, especially between meals
Irregular menstruation, increased miscarriage rate, infertility
A darkening of the folds of the skin
So who's most at risk for prediabetes?
If you're inactive and overweight, you should be tested. Other risk factors include:
A close family member, such as a parent or sibling, who has diabetes
African-American, Latin-American or Asian/Pacific Islander descent
Elevated blood pressure, cholesterol or triglyceride levels
A history of gestational diabetes or polycystic ovary syndrome
What is Type 2 diabetes?
High blood glucose (sugar) results when your body is no longer able to use the hormone, insulin, effectively - this is known as insulin resistance.
At first your pancreas, an organ located between your stomach and spine that helps with digestion, makes extra insulin to overcome this resistance. Over time, however, the pancreas is unable to make enough insulin to keep blood glucose at normal levels, sometimes causing the need to take insulin to prevent damage to organs and nerves.
What is insulin and how does it work?
Insulin transfers excess sugar from your blood to your cells to be used for energy. When your body becomes insulin resistant, sugar starts building in your blood, and this begins to cause damage to your blood vessels, nerves, and organs.
Will I develop Type 2 diabetes?
Having prediabetes doesn't mean you'll definitely develop Type 2 diabetes.
What can I do?
Make an appointment with your Primary Care Physician if you suspect you have prediabetes. He or she can order a simple, fasting blood test, similar to one drawn for those with diabetes.
With healthy lifestyle changes - such as eating healthy foods, regular physical activity, and maintaining a healthy weight - you may be able to reverse your blood sugar level back to normal. What's more, improvements in glucose levels (and symptoms) may be seen in as little as three months.
Your Primary Care Physician can help you determine the right steps for your situation.
Don't have a Primary Care Physician? As a Disney employee or Cast Member and a Florida Hospital Physician Network member, you have access to the Member Experience Center. With one call, we can help you find a Primary Care Physician and get you scheduled for your check-up. Call today at (855) 747-7476.
Sources: National Institutes of Health; American Diabetes Association; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Florida Hospital Diabetes Institute