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Prediabetes is a condition that few people know about mostly due to the fact that it is rarely diagnosed and shows few or subtle symptoms. Here's how to assess your risk, get tested and if diagnosed — manage prediabetes.

What Is Prediabetes?

Prediabetes is a condition defined by blood sugar levels that are higher then normal, but not high enough to indicate Type 2 Diabetes. In many instances, people with Prediabetes will develop Type 2 Diabetes in 10 years or less. In some cases prediabetes can already begin to cause long-term damage to the heart and circulatory system. Lifestyle changes such as dietary changes, increased physical activity and weight management can balance blood sugar levels and prevent the advent of Type 2 Diabetes.

The Symptoms Of Prediabetes Are Subtle

Typically someone with prediabetes will not feel nor see any symptoms. However, there are some early precursors. Some individuals with prediabetes notice a darkened skin area around the neck, armpits, knuckles, knees and elbows. If you've moved from prediabetes to Type 2 Diabetes you may notice increased thirst, frequent urination, general fatigue and blurred vision. 

Causes Of Prediabetes

Glucose in our bodies comes from foods we eat that contain carbohydrates. These foods affect blood sugar levels. As these carbohydrates are digested, insulin excreted by the pancreas helps to allow sugars to enter our cells. As a result, insulin actually lowers the amount of sugar in our bloodstream. Ultimately insulin levels drop as sugar levels drop. However, one of the early symptoms of prediabetes is when the sugar begins to build in your bloodstream because the pancreas can't make enough insulin, or the cells become resistant to insulin. In some cases both conditions occur.

While the specific causes of the body's failure with insulin have not been determined, there are certain risk factors unique to some people. 

  • Body weight: If you have a BMI (body mass index) over 25 your risk for prediabetes is high. This is particularly true for people with a large circumference around the abdomen. Studies have shown that fat cells concentrated around the belly can cause increased insulin resistance. 
  • Physical activity: Lack of physical activity has been linked to both weight gain and a lack of overall metabolism effectiveness.
  • Genetics: If you have a family history of diabetes statistics show that you are likely to develop Prediabetes and Type 2 Diabetes.
  • Race and ethnic factors: A higher rate of Diabetes develops in people of African, Asian or Hispanic descent. 
  • Age: The risk for Prediabetes and Type 2 Diabetes begins to increase at age 45 and continues to rise.  The risk increases significantly at age 5 and after.
  • Related Health Issues: Conditions like high LDL cholesterol and high blood pressure increase your chance of developing prediabetes and Type 2 Diabetes. High Triglycerides also increase the risk. Pregnancy can cause the onset of a short-term form of Diabetes known as "Gestational Diabetes".  This could cause the onset of Prediabetes as well as a baby born weighing in excess of 4.1 kilograms or 9 pounds. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome increases the risk of prediabetes. Sleep Apnea or other issues that cause inconsistent sleep patterns have been shown to increase the chance you will develop prediabetes and Type 2 Diabetes. 
Continue reading after recommendations

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  • DeFronzo RA, et al. Preservation of beta-cell function: The key to diabetes
  • Senechal M, et al. Independent and combined effect of diet and exercise in adults with prediabetes.
  • Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome and Obesity: Targets and Therapy. 2014
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  • McCulloch DK, et al. Prevention of type 2 diabetes mellitus.
  • Natural medicines in the clinical management of diabetes. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database.
  • Photo courtesy of AlishaV via Flickr:
  • Photo courtesy of Bev Goodwin via Flickr:
  • Tests for Diabetes: pdf about Prediabetes:

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