Diagnosed with pre-diabetes? Here's what you should know

Pre-diabetes is a warning sign you’re at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. But what can you do to help prevent pre-diabetes from developing into type 2 diabetes?

Being told you have pre-diabetes can be alarming, but it can also be an important wake-up call to improve your health and make lifestyle changes to reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

What is pre-diabetes?

Bupa Australia’s National Medical Director and GP Dr Tim Ross says, “Pre-diabetes is where a fasting blood test for glucose levels shows a mildly raised level that is higher than normal, but not in the diabetic range.”

Often people have a two-hour glucose tolerance test following this that will be normal or minimally abnormal, i.e. not diagnostic for diabetes,” he says.
 
“I tell my patients that this test indicates that their body is having increasing difficulty managing their glucose levels. This means that they are at increased risk of developing diabetes in the future, but this can be ameliorated through lifestyle modifications.”

What are the pre-diabetes symptoms?

Often, pre-diabetes has no signs or symptoms.
 
One possible sign that you may be at increased risk of type 2 diabetes is darkened skin on certain parts of the body. This condition is called acanthosis nigricans. Common areas that may be affected include the neck, armpits, elbows, knees and knuckles, so if you notice any unfamiliar skin changes talk to your doctor. 
 
Classic red flags that suggest your blood glucose levels have been high for a while and that you may have developed  type 2 diabetes include:
  • increased thirst
  • frequent urination
  • fatigue
  • blurred vision.
blood sugar test

What is the likelihood of pre-diabetes developing into type 2 diabetes?

While people with pre-diabetes are at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, it is difficult to quantify the actual risk. Being diagnosed with pre-diabetes doesn’t necessarily mean that you will develop diabetes, and there is often still time to turn things around.

Ways to prevent developing type 2 diabetes

“People with this diagnosis need to be conscious that their body is not as effective at managing their blood glucose levels any more. It is important for them to implement the same lifestyle managements as people who have type 2 diabetes,” says Dr Ross.
 
While you cannot ensure that pre-diabetes will not develop into diabetes, eating a balanced healthy diet, losing excess weight, and having a regular exercise habit (at least 30 minutes a day, most days of the week) and keeping active are the best ways to manage your risk. These measures help lower blood glucose levels and reduce body fat. 
 
People with pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes don’t necessarily need to eat differently to others. A healthy diet is one that is well balanced and includes a variety of healthy carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. The trick to this balancing act is choosing the right combination of foods to help keep blood glucose levels in your target range and eating at regular intervals throughout the day to help avoid big swings that can cause other health problems.
 
“Pre-diabetes is an excellent warning shot to get your health in order. It is an opportunity to address your whole self and find ways to better manage your health into the future, including a full health check, lifestyle review and positive planning for the future,” says Dr Ross. 
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