According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA) 57 million Americans have pre-diabetes, and most of them are unaware of their serious condition. That's because there are few outward symptoms of pre-diabetes. If you have pre-diabetes, chances are you will get full-blown diabetes in four to six years if you do nothing about it.
It can send a chill up anyone’s spine being informed by your physician that you have borderline diabetes. This is a disease that can literally alter your life. But, each year, hundreds of thousands of Americans are being told just that as the number of diabetes cases continually rises. Currently, there are over 18 million known case of diabetes in the U.S. that have diabetes. It’s estimated that there’s approximately 6 million more people that have diabetes and don’t know it. And it remains a serious health problem costing patients billions of dollars in health care every year.
What exactly is borderline diabetes? Sometimes called pre-diabetes, it’s a condition where a person has glucose levels between normal levels and levels that would identify them as diabetic. The reason that many people don’t know they have the condition is that it’s relatively free of symptoms. In a person without diabetes, the body will produce insulin to help the cells break down food into energy. In diabetics and pre-diabetics, however, either the body is unable to create insulin or it is unable to utilize the insulin. This is one reason why people with borderline diabetes tend to be tired much of the time. They are eating, but their body is unable to break down the food into usable energy.
Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S., and a contributor to other deaths from heart disease and stroke. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control points to obesity and the unhealthy lifestyles of many Americans as a major contributing factor for diabetes.
Many doctors have stopped using the term borderline diabetes to describe this condition as, in their minds, a person who exhibits the symptoms of pre-diabetes is, in truth diabetic. and they see no real medical reason to obfuscate the diagnosis. They also feel that telling a person that he or she has borderline diabetes will cause the person to not take the diagnosis seriously - since it is only borderline. Others feel that the condition of these patients is more accurately described as insulin resistant or impaired glucose tolerance. Other doctors, however, still use the term and find it useful to keep the distinction between pre-diabetes and diabetes.
For medical care physicians that continue to use the term, borderline diabetes is diagnosed when a person’s glucose level, as determined by glucose tests, fall between 100 to 125 milligrams per deciliter.
Unfortunately, in most cases, a person who has borderline diabetes will see the disease progress to diabetes. In some cases, however, with a change of eating habits and other healthy lifestyle changes, the disease will be reversed.
Many health experts believe that pre-diabetes is a preventable disease. Studies have shown a distinct correlation between the increase in the amount of fast foods that we eat and the new incidences of type II diabetes. Likewise, there is a correlation between our increasingly sedentary lifestyles with increases in the number of people diagnosed with diabetics. Making the defeat of diabetes even more urgent is that a person with pre-diabetes or diabetes is at greater risk for a host of other diseases including heart disease, stroke, liver disease, and more.
Pre-Diabetes Are You at Risk?
How do you determine for sure whether you are pre-diabetic or diabetic?
You have to have your blood sugar tested. One common test is the fasting plasma glucose test (FPG). If your glucose level is:
- 100 mg/deciliter (dl) or less -- your glucose level is normal
- Over 100 but less that 126 -- you are pre-diabetic
- 126 and over -- you are diabetic
To nail it down for sure, take the A1C test. The A1C test result reflects your average blood sugar level for the past two to three months. Specifically, the A1C test measures what percentage of your hemoglobin - a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen - is coated with sugar (glycated).
The A1C test should be the primary test used to diagnose pre-diabetes, type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes according to an international committee of experts from the American Diabetes Association, the European Association for the Study of Diabetes and the International Diabetes Federation.
What is your risk for pre-diabetes and diabetes?
The American Diabetes Association has revised its diabetes/pre-diabetes risk test with a simple flowchart. It help you assess whether you are:--
- at risk for pre-diabetes,
- a high risk for type 2 diabetes, or
- a low risk for pre-diabetes/diabetes
Risk factors of pre-diabetes
The test is simplified of course, but it highlights the following major risk factors:--
- Age -- the older you are, the higher your risk for diabetes/pre-diabetes
- Weight -- the more overweight you are, the higher your risk
- Genetics -- if your mother, father, brother or sister has/had diabetes, you have a higher risk
- Race -- if you are non-Caucasian, you have a higher risk
- High blood pressure -- if you have or had hypertension, you have a higher risk
- Diabetes during pregnancy -- if you had diabetes during pregnancy, you have a higher risk
Reduce risk of pre-diabetes
What should you do if your risk test or glucose test indicates pre-diabetes or diabetes?
First of all, see your doctor at once.
Second, if you are overweight, pick a good weight loss plan and start immediately to shed excess fat. If you have tried in the past to lose weight, but couldn't, examine the reasons why you couldn't and make a renewed effort to overcome your roadblocks to losing weight.
Third, eat like a diabetic -- Eat healthy and nutritious foods. Cut your sugar intake. Pay attention to what you eat.
Fourth, get active. Take walks. Add muscle strengthening exercises.
Luckily, researchers have begun to identify and catalog the many risk factors that predispose one towards developing diabetes. Hopefully, in the near future, diabetes will be looked upon as a long forgotten disease of the past.