What is pre-diabetes
Before people develop type 2 diabetes, they almost always have "pre-diabetes" -- blood glucose levels that are higher than normal but not yet high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes. The range for a fasting blood glucose test is 100 to 125 mg/dL. There are 57 million people in the United States who have pre-diabetes. Recent research has shown that some long-term damage to the body, especially the heart and circulatory system, may already be occurring during pre-diabetes.
Research has also shown that if you take action to manage your blood glucose when you have pre-diabetes, you can delay or prevent type 2 diabetes from developing.
Causes of Pre-Diabetes
To understand prediabetes, first you must understand how sugar (glucose) is normally processed in the body.
Glucose is a main source of energy for the cells that make up your muscles and other tissues. Glucose comes from two major sources: the food you eat and your liver. During digestion, sugar is absorbed into the bloodstream. Normally, sugar then enters cells with the help of insulin.
The hormone insulin comes from the pancreas, a gland located just behind the stomach. When you eat, your pancreas secretes insulin into your bloodstream. As insulin circulates, it acts like a key by unlocking microscopic doors that allow sugar to enter your cells. Insulin lowers the amount of sugar in your bloodstream. As your blood sugar level drops, so does the secretion of insulin from your pancreas.
Your liver acts as a glucose storage and manufacturing center. When your insulin levels are low when you haven't eaten in a while, for example your liver releases the stored glucose to keep your glucose level within a normal range.
When you have prediabetes, this process begins to work improperly. Instead of moving into your cells, sugar builds up in your bloodstream. This occurs when your pancreas doesn't make enough insulin or your cells become resistant to the action of insulin or both. Exactly why this happens is uncertain, although excess fat especially abdominal fat and inactivity seem to be important factors.
The same factors that increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes increase the risk of developing prediabetes, including:
- Weight Being overweight is a primary risk factor for prediabetes. The more fatty tissue you have especially around your abdomen the more resistant your cells become to insulin.
- Inactivity The less active you are, the greater your risk of prediabetes. Physical activity helps you control your weight, uses up glucose as energy and makes your cells more sensitive to insulin.
- Age The risk of prediabetes increases as you get older, especially after age 45. Often, that's because people tend to exercise less, lose muscle mass and gain weight as they age. But diabetes is also increasing dramatically among children, adolescents and younger adults.
- Family history The risk of prediabetes increases if a parent or sibling has type 2 diabetes.
- Race Although it's unclear why, people of certain races including African-Americans, Hispanics, American Indians and Asian-Americans are more likely to develop prediabetes.
- Gestational diabetes If you developed gestational diabetes when you were pregnant, your risk of later developing diabetes increases. If you gave birth to a baby who weighed more than 9 pounds, you're also at increased risk of diabetes.
- Polycystic ovary syndrome For women, having polycystic ovary syndrome a common condition characterized by irregular menstrual periods, excess hair growth and obesity increases the risk of diabetes.
*There is a lot you can do to educate yourself about your risks for pre-diabetes and to take action to prevent diabetes if you have, or are at risk for, pre-diabetes. People with pre-diabetes can expect to benefit from much of the same advice for good nutrition and physical activity.
*Source: Mayo Clinic
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