People who have pre-diabetes have blood sugar levels that are higher than they should be but not quite high enough to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes. The condition is quite common in the United States and affects about 57 million people, some of whom may not know that they have the condition since it is usually asymptomatic. Pre-diabetes, formerly known as borderline diabetes or impaired glucose tolerance, usually leads to type 2 diabetes unless the patient takes steps to prevent or reverse the condition.
When a person has type 2 diabetes, his or her body is usually unable make or use insulin to metabolize the glucose, or sugar, found in many foods. The sugar then builds up in the blood and can cause damage to the heart, kidneys, and central nervous system. People who have type 2 diabetes are at a higher risk of heart disease and stroke. Likewise, people with pre-diabetes also face a higher risk of these conditions.
Although the risks are high, many people do not know that they have pre-diabetes. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends that adults who are overweight and over 45 years old talk with their doctor about being tested for the condition. There are two tests for pre-diabetes, both of which measure the level of glucose in the blood. Both tests are considered equally effective.
Before taking either test, the patient must fast for at least eight hours. For the first test, known as the fasting plasma glucose test, a blood sample is taken and the glucose level is measured. If the glucose is between 100 and 125 mg/dl, then the patient has pre-diabetes. During the oral glucose tolerance test, a patient’s glucose is tested after a fast. He or she then drinks something high in sugar and has his or her blood tested after two hours. If the level in glucose is between 140 and 199 mg/dl after two hours, he or she is pre-diabetic.
After a person is diagnosed with pre-diabetes, he or she can take steps to slow the progression to type 2 diabetes or to even reverse the condition. Patients who lose about 5 percent of their body weight often slow down or prevent the development of diabetes. Patients may also benefit from increased exercise and a change in diet, such as cutting back on sweets and making sure to eat nutritious meals. Cutting back on risky behaviors, such as smoking, and working to lower blood pressure and cholesterol can also cut a patient’s chances of developing diabetes-related illnesses.