Diabetes is considered a major health concern all across the globe. But perhaps there’s one aspect of it that may people aren’t really aware of: Prediabetes. Here’s what you need to know
Not too long ago in 2021, the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) found that one out of ten individuals are diabetic, meaning that 537 million adults from the age 20 to 79 from all over the world have diabetes. Three years ago, in 2019, the condition ranked ninth on the list of the leading causes of death, as stated by the World Health Organization. On average, one person dies from diabetes per five seconds—a piece of data that causes nightmares for many.
Around 11 percent of the total population in Indonesia is diabetic, equivalent to 19.47 million people. This number makes Indonesia the fifth country with the highest number of diabetics. While the risk of diabetes cannot be understated, there is a little-known aspect of the disease that threatens millions in secret—a condition called prediabetes.
A PRELUDE TO PERIL
As its name implies, prediabetes occurs before diabetes or, rather, it is a condition that can potentially lead to the sans “pre-” status—the real diabetes. Prediabetes is where one’s blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to be categorized as type two diabetes. However, the good news is that prediabetes does not inevitably lead to diabetes. It can serve as the yellow light or a warning sign of a potentially more serious condition. Prediabetes often goes undetected as it has no clear signs or distinctive symptoms. Because of this, prediabetes is a secret time bomb that can explode unexpectedly.
All that being said, despite having no typical signs, prediabetes can be identified by comparing one’s condition to the symptoms of type two diabetes mellitus. Common symptoms of this chronic condition include perpetual thirst and hungriness, more frequent urination and fatigue or drowsiness. Unintended weight loss, blurred vision and slow-healing sores are also the symptoms one should be aware of.
THE RISK FACTORS
As mentioned earlier, when left untreated, prediabetes can lead to type two diabetes. However, it is not an absolute sign that one is going to have diabetes. Up to this day, the exact cause of prediabetes remains undiscovered. Nevertheless, prediabetes is a condition one should never underestimate. When someone has prediabetes, their body is unable to process glucose properly anymore. This leads to a sugar buildup in their bloodstream as the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or the body cells grow resistant to the hormone.
The risk factors of prediabetes are similar to the ones of type two diabetes. A family history and genetics still serve as the primary factors of the condition. If your parents or siblings have diabetes, you have a higher risk of prediabetes. Ethnicity and age, surprisingly, are also among the risk factors. Hispanics, those of African descent, Native Americans and Asians apparently have a higher risk of developing prediabetes.
While we might have no control over those circumstances, other factors are still controllable. Obstructive sleep apnea is one of the risk factors, which can happen particularly to people who are overweight and obese. Excessive consumption
of sugar-sweetened drinks along with red and processed meats are also linked with a higher prediabetes risk. Smoking also can increase insulin resistance which eventually makes the risk of type two diabetes skyrocket. Last but not least, a sedentary lifestyle is a risk factor that many might be unaware of.
IT CAN GET COMPLICATED
Risk factors are not the only information one should learn about the silent monster that is prediabetes. For one, it has been associated with long-term damage to certain body parts and organs including blood vessels, kidneys and the heart, even if one does or has not progressed to type two diabetes.
The condition of course becomes way more serious when it progresses to diabetes mellitus, which leads to an array of health problems including nerve damage, high cholesterol, rising blood pressure and stroke. Diseases targeting the kidneys and liver can follow, and the risk of vision loss and amputation becomes higher than ever. In addition to this, prediabetes has been named the cause of silent heart attacks.
Prediabetes comes with no clear symptoms so to determine whether or not you have prediabetes or are at a high risk of the condition, a diagnosis from medical professionals is required. Early check-ups help you get the proper treatment so a more serious condition can be prevented.
A number of tests can be performed to check your blood sugar level, from a simple random blood sugar test to the hemoglobin A1C test which is able to measure your average blood sugar level within the past three months. Your blood sugar level is considered normal or healthy when it is less than 140 mg/dL. However, prediabetes is indicated by a reading between 140 and 199 mg/dL. Higher than that and you are diagnosed with type two diabetes.
TAKE ACTION NOW
Being diagnosed with prediabetes might sound as scary as having diabetes. However, preventive measures can be taken to avoid this unwanted situation. Start easy by identifying your risk factors. Embrace an active lifestyle by getting your body move and exercising regularly. Maintain an ideal weight and follow a proper diet program if necessary. Reduce the consumption of sugary food and drinks, and eat healthier, more balanced diet.
Say goodbye to your favorite cigarettes as you stop your smoking habit. Get your blood sugar level checked regularly. While it might not be directly related to prediabetes, low stress level and positive mood can help you feel healthier.
To sum up, prediabetes is a condition that also serves as a warning sign. With proper actions and better lifestyle choices, it can be kept at bay and the risk of the more serious diabetes mellitus can be further decreased.
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