In Part 1 of this series, House Call Doctor explains the risks associated with diabetes and the tests your doctor will likely do to screen for this deadly disease.
Being diagnosed with diabetes can be very frightening. No one wants to find out that they have diabetes, and it can be stressful to learn that what we eat and how we live should be restricted – especially when we feel “just fine.” But, if you are diabetic or are at risk for developing diabetes, it’s really important to understand this disease and how to manage it. As a short synopsis, here are some of its potential complications:
- Heart disease (the number one killer of men and women in the US currently)
- Kidney disease and failure
- Vision loss
- Peripheral arterial disease
It can really affect all of our organs and diminish our quality and quantity of life. This is why preventing diabetes is absolutely imperative, especially if you have a family history of diabetes and/or are diagnosed with a condition called “prediabetes.” It’s really in your best interest to find out how to prevent diabetes, and not just blame genetics and learn to accept living with prediabetes. You can reverse it at the prediabetes stage so that you are never diagnosed with diabetes in your life. Let’s find out how. Today, I’ll start by reviewing the definitions and diagnosis criteria for diabetes, and in the next episode we will address specific methods to prevent diabetes.
What is Prediabetes?
Before we define what “prediabetes” is, it’s important to learn what diabetes is. Our bodies and our cells need sugar, otherwise known as “glucose,” in order to function and survive. A hormone called “insulin” released from the pancreas helps sugar enter the cells in our body. If the pancreas doesn’t make enough insulin, or alternatively, if our cells don’t recognize and allow insulin to do its thing (a term we call “insulin resistance”), sugar builds up in our blood stream and doesn’t get metabolized correctly. This is what happens in diabetics.
In prediabetics, the same process may occur, but on a smaller scale so that glucose may build up, but not quite as much. Glucose levels are typically not high enough to meet criteria for diabetes, but on the other hand, they are not normal either. It’s really an in-between stage, which you can think of as a great big warning sign that you may be on your way to developing diabetes if you don’t stop it in its tracks or reverse it now. About 50% of prediabetics eventually develop diabetes.