Diabetes isn’t dreaded without a reason. The metabolic disorder that can lead to uncontrolled blood sugar levels can slowly and surely damage body function and affect heart, kidney, eyes, skin, nervous system, among a host of other issues. Diabetes doesn’t happen overnight and there are many signs and symptoms that the body exhibits before the sugar levels reach high enough to be diagnosed as the disease. Prediabetes happens when your blood sugar levels are elevated but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes. But it puts you at a greater risk of developing diabetes in near future. As per a Lancet study, 101 million people in India, almost 11.4% of the country’s population, are living with diabetes, while 136 million are living with prediabetes in the country. (Also read | Diabetes: 6 surprising things that can spike your blood sugar levels)

Prediabetes happens when your blood sugar levels are elevated but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes.(Shutterstock)

A fasting blood sugar level of 99 mg/dL or lower is normal, 100 to 125 mg/dL shows you have prediabetes, while 126 mg/dL or higher indicates you have diabetes. Increased thirst, frequent urination, fatigue, blurred vision, numbness in feet, frequent infections are signs of prediabetes but many a time, it can be without symptoms as well.

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Warning signs of prediabetes

“Prediabetes is a condition characterised by higher than normal blood sugar levels, but not yet high enough to be classified as type 2 diabetes. What makes prediabetes particularly concerning is that it often presents without any noticeable symptoms. However, in some cases, individuals may experience neuropathic symptoms such as burning or numbness in the feet, which can serve as early warning signs,” says Dr. Vahid S. Bharmal, Consultant- Adult & Paediatric Endocrinologist, Bhailal Amin General Hospital, Vadodara.

Risk factors for prediabetes

Several risk factors contribute to the development of prediabetes, according to Dr Bharmal. These may include a family history of diabetes, obesity, consumption of calorie-dense foods, leading a sedentary lifestyle, experiencing chronic stress, having a fatty liver, and suffering from polycystic ovary syndrome. Identifying these risk factors is crucial for initiating appropriate screening measures.

Prediabetes diagnosis methods

Screening for prediabetes typically involves tests such as HbA1c, fasting blood sugar, and a two-hour post-glucose blood sugar test. It’s recommended for individuals with risk factors and those over 30 years of age to undergo these screenings regularly.

“Diagnosing prediabetes is essential because it presents an opportunity for intervention through lifestyle modifications. Making changes in diet and exercise habits can significantly reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Aim for 30 to 45 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise daily, complemented by resistance training exercises twice a week on non-consecutive days,” says Dr Bharmal.

Diet for prediabetes

Doctors would usually advise you to follow diabetic diet when you are diagnosed with prediabetes. It is advised to consume whole grains, green vegetables, fruits, protein and fibrous food while processed foods and sugars must be avoided.

“When it comes to dietary adjustments, focus on minimising the consumption of simple carbohydrates and calorie-dense foods. Instead, prioritise the intake of green leafy vegetables and appropriate amounts of protein. These dietary changes can help regulate blood sugar levels and promote overall health,” says Dr Bharmal.

“In some cases, medications such as metformin may be prescribed to manage prediabetes. However, lifestyle modifications remain the cornerstone of treatment,” adds the expert.

Regular monitoring of HbA1c levels every six months is essential for individuals with prediabetes. This allows for tracking of progress and adjustment of treatment strategies as needed.

Can prediabetes be reversed?

With the help of appropriate lifestyle changes, prediabetes can be reversed, say experts.

“Prediabetes doesn’t always have symptoms, it is a disorder that is often ignored. If left untreated, it can lead to type 2 diabetes and have substantial health hazards. Type 2 diabetes can be effectively prevented or delayed by early detection through screening, lifestyle modifications such as exercise, dietary changes, and medication as needed. Maintaining long-term health and wellbeing requires aggressive management of prediabetes,” says Dr Bharmal.

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