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What you need to know about prediabetes

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What is prediabetes?

Prediabetes means you are on your way to get full-blown type 2 diabetes — unless you do something about it now. Prediabetes is a window of opportunity — a chance to PREVENT or delay type 2 diabetes. Prediabetes is the time to seek help.

How is prediabetes diagnosed?

It is diagnosed by a blood sugar test. Usually an A1C test or a fasting blood sugar. An A1C measures your average blood sugar over the past three months.

  • A1C of 6 to 6.4% = prediabetes, or
  • Fasting blood sugar of 6.1 to 6.9 mmol/L = prediabetes.
  • Once the A1C reaches 6.5% or the fasting blood sugar reaches 7.0 mmol/L, you have type 2 diabetes.

Most people do not have noticeable symptoms of prediabetes, and everyone over the age of 45 should be tested at least once a year.

How common is prediabetes in seniors?

Very common! The rates of prediabetes and diabetes continue to rise in Canada. Getting older (age), is one of the risk factors for both. According to Diabetes Canada, one in three Canadians have either prediabetes or diabetes. That means that if you had a gathering of ten people, at least three people in that room will have prediabetes or diabetes. If the gathering was seniors, four or five of the people may have prediabetes or diabetes. Many in the room will not even know they have it, as they haven’t been tested. Make sure you know by getting tested.

Assess your risk for prediabetes

Take the Diabetes Canada CANRISK, Canadian Diabetes Risk Questionnaire to determine your risk for prediabetes and type 2 diabetes.

Take prediabetes seriously

Research proves that making lifestyle changes helps.

The Diabetes Prevention Program, also known as the DPP, is an American research project that follows thousands of people with prediabetes, some for almost 20 years.

It has shown that when people with prediabetes get help to make healthy changes they can reduce their risk of type 2 diabetes by 58%.

If you are over 60, you can reduce your risk by 71%.

It is very worthwhile to do something now.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Where do I start?

First, make a commitment to yourself to be healthier. This really is the hardest but most important step. Once you’ve made that decision, it just makes good sense that you’ll want to become more active and eat and live healthier.

Second, become more active. This means gradually, step-by-step walk more. Go buy yourself a good pair of walking shoes that protect and cushion the bottoms of your feet. If you have knee pain, use heat before and cold after on the joint, try Nordic walking poles or a knee brace; and if that doesn’t work see a physiotherapist about the best exercises for you. You might look at an alternative exercise: use an exercise bicycle at home or do lap swimming. Look for a coach or friend who can help you become more active.

Third, take a serious look at what and how much you eat. Reduce the obvious forms of excess sugar and calories from your daily diet: sweetened drinks and liquor, large portions, fried foods and late night snacks…you don’t need a dietitian for this — you know what you eat or drink too much of! Get more into the veggies. Fill half your plate with vegetables and have more fruit and vegetables for snacks rather than potato chips and peanuts. You may find you lose a few of those extra pounds that year-by-year have snuck onto your waistline.

Finally, have an open discussion with your doctor about prediabetes. Your doctor will also check your blood pressure, as prediabetes can cause early damage to your heart. Don’t be surprised if your doctor suggests you take a daily diabetes pill called metformin; research shows that when people with prediabetes take this pill, they are less likely to get type 2 diabetes.

Author: Karen Graham. Karen is a Canadian Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator with 40 years of work experience. She has three best-selling diabetes books co-authored with American endocrinologist Dr. Mansur Shomali. These books have sold almost half a million copies and include: Diabetes Essentials, Diabetes Meals for Good Health Cookbook and Complete Diabetes Guide (2020 editions).

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