High blood sugar, in general, can be concerning because it can lead to various health complications, including damage to blood vessels, nerves, and organs, making you more prone to heart disease, stroke, and kidney problems. Regular testing can help detect whether you have diabetes or are prediabetic. While both require active management, the latter gives you time to make amends to your lifestyle and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.
In an interaction with the OnlyMyHealth team, Dr Sandeep Reddy, Senior Endocrinologist, Kamineni Hospitals, Hyderabad, explains what prediabetes is and whether it can progress to diabetes or not.
What Is Prediabetes?
“Prediabetes is a condition in which blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be classified as type 2 diabetes,” Dr Reddy says, adding that it serves as a warning sign that a person is at risk of developing diabetes if appropriate measures are not taken to address the condition.
However, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the majority of people with prediabetes are not aware of their condition because unlike the more visible symptoms of diabetes, prediabetes presents with milder signs or remains asymptomatic.
In India, an estimated 7.7 crore people above the age of 18 years are suffering from type 2 diabetes and nearly 2.5 crore are prediabetics, says the World Health Organization, adding, "More than 50% of people are unaware of their diabetic status which leads to health complications if not detected and treated early,"
Can Prediabetes Progress To Diabetes?
According to Dr Reddy, untreated prediabetes can evolve into type 2 diabetes. “It indicates the body's insulin resistance or insufficient insulin production to manage blood sugar levels,” he says, adding, “Unaddressed, blood sugar levels may rise, leading to type 2 diabetes.”
In fact, the CDC suggests that without any action, many people with prediabetes could develop type 2 diabetes within 5 years.
However, not all prediabetes cases progress to diabetes. “By making lifestyle changes and using medication, it's possible to reverse prediabetes and prevent its progression to diabetes,” the doctor says.
Lifestyle Changes To Help Prevent Diabetes
Adopting a healthy lifestyle can effectively reduce the risk of diabetes and manage blood sugar levels. Here are the changes you should include, as per the doctor:
- Start with a balanced diet, focusing on whole foods, fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats, while avoiding sugary and processed foods
- Regular exercise is vital; aim for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activities like walking or cycling each week to improve insulin sensitivity and maintain a healthy weight
- Weight management by shedding even a little excess weight
- Avoid smoking and limit alcohol consumption
- Manage stress through yoga, meditation, or nature activities
- Regular health check-ups with professionals
If you have been diagnosed with prediabetes, it's crucial to work closely with your doctor to develop an effective plan that addresses your specific risk factors and needs. “Taking action promptly can significantly reduce the risk of prediabetes progressing to type 2 diabetes and lead to better overall health and well-being,” Dr Reddy shares.