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Why Prediabetes is the Wake-Up Call You Shouldn’t Ignore

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Of the 86 million people that have prediabetes, only 10 percent aged 20 and older know they have it.

Type 2 diabetes doesn’t happen overnight. Many people have a long, slow, invisible lead-in to the disease called “prediabetes.”

A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that out of the 86 million people that has prediabetes, only 10 percent aged 20 and older know they have it.

Dr. Ann Payne-Johnson, a Sacred Heart Medical Group primary care physician, says getting a prediabetes diagnosis can be a useful wake-up call because it gives people the opportunity to make lifestyle changes that can delay or prevent the onset of diabetes.

“During prediabetes, blood sugar levels are higher than normal,” she explains. “However, they’re not high enough to cause symptoms or be classified as diabetes. At this stage, there’s still time to prevent the slide into full-blown diabetes.”

The bodies of people with type 2 diabetes make enough of the hormone insulin, but their cells don’t receive the signal that tells them to absorb the glucose (blood sugar), causing high levels of glucose to remain in the blood.

“Extra glucose can change the way blood vessels behave, increasing the chances of having a heart attack, stroke or developing other forms of cardiovascular disease,” Payne-Johnson says.

Not everyone with prediabetes will develop diabetes. With lifestyle change interventions targeting diet and increased physical activity, type 2 diabetes can be delayed or prevented. Without lifestyle changes, many of those with prediabetes will develop type 2 diabetes within five years.

If you have been diagnosed with prediabetes, there are several ways you can reduce your risk of developing diabetes, Payne-Johnson says.

  • Get moving
    Try and do at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise 5 days a week. Take a brisk walk, do yoga, climb some stairs, go swimming, play tennis or ride your bike.
  • Lose 10
    Research has found that people with prediabetes can cut their risk of developing type 2 diabetes in half by losing just 5 to 7 percent of their body weight. That is about 10 to 14 pounds for a person weighing 200 pounds.
  • Eat a healthier diet
    Load up on three servings of green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, kale or broccoli each day. Enjoy fruits in moderation, from one to three servings per day. Choose whole-grain foods instead of processed grains – for instance, try brown rice or quinoa instead of white rice.
  • Enroll in a program
    Sacred Heart’s PreventT2 lifestyle-change program, part of the National Diabetes Prevention Program, teaches participants with prediabetes how to eat healthy, add physical activity to their life, manage stress, stay motivated and solve problems that can get in the way of healthy lifestyle changes. The cost for the year-long program is $50. For more information, visit https://www.sacred-heart.org/News/article/?NID=2005.


Not only can these lifestyle changes help stave off diabetes, they can also protect against heart attack, stroke, bone-thinning osteoporosis, and a host of other chronic conditions. Ready to take the first step toward better health? Learn more about the PreventT2 program here.