Type 2 diabetes is a condition in which a person’s body can’t control the amount of glucose (sugar) in the blood. Blood sugar levels become too high because the body doesn’t respond to insulin properly, and if this is left untreated, serious complications can occur, including kidney failure, nerve damage, heart disease, stroke and foot ulcers. Prediabetes means that your blood sugar level is higher than normal but not high enough to be considered diabetes. It is a warning sign that if you don’t make changes, the condition may eventually progress to diabetes.
But those changes typically don’t include taking medication, according to Dr Adrian Vella, Mayo Clinic.
Instead, lifestyle changes, such as improving your diet, losing weight and exercising regularly, may lower your blood sugar to a healthy level.
He advised: “Your health care provider can diagnose diabetes using several different tests. One of the most common is the fasting blood glucose test, in which a sample of your blood is taken after you have not eaten for at least eight hours.
“The test analyses how much glucose is in your blood. A normal glucose level range is 70 to 100 milligrams per deciliter, or mg/dL.
“You have diabetes when glucose is consistently above 126 mg/dL. Prediabetes is when your fasting blood sugar is between 101 to 125 mg/dL.”
Being in the prediabetes range signals that you are at high risk of developing diabetes if something doesn’t change.
The exact cause is not known, but excess fat — especially abdominal fat — and inactivity seem to be important factors in the development of prediabetes, according to Dr Vella.
He added: “In addition, the risk for diabetes goes up as you get older, especially after age 45. You can’t do anything about your age, but you can make other changes to lower your risk.
“Studies have found that diet and exercise are the most effective treatments for combating prediabetes and preventing its progression to diabetes.”
Being sedentary can raise your diabetes risk, even if you don’t carry excess weight, so regular exercise should be a priority.
Dr Vella advised: “It doesn’t have to be a strenuous workout. A brisk walk, a bike ride, an afternoon spent gardening — anything that gets you moving helps. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate exercise each day.
“If you can’t fit it in all at once, try several 10-minute sessions throughout the day. If you choose an activity that you enjoy, you’re more likely to stick with it. The availability of step counters — even those on smartphones — can help you keep track of your activity. You should aim for about 10,000 steps per day.”
When it comes to diet, Dr Vella said you should concentrate on foods lower in fat and calories and higher in fibre.
He said: “Focus on eating fruits, vegetables and whole grains. If you aren’t sure what’s right for you, consider meeting with a dietitian to review your diet and help you make changes. There are numerous apps and online platforms that can help you track your food intake.
“Finally, have your blood sugar checked on at least an annual basis so you know if you are making progress.
“Talk to your health care provider about how often you need your blood sugar tested.
“In many cases, blood sugar that falls in the prediabetes range can be successfully controlled without medication.”