Diabetes, either type one or type two, can be a devastating condition which claims hundreds of lives every single year in the UK. Therefore, it may come as quite a shock that one in three adults in England are now on the cusp of developing diabetes. This so called prediabetes (also known as borderline diabetes) could be disastrous news for many of us but exactly what is prediabetes and who is at risk?
Prediabetes, as the name suggests, is simply a premature diagnosis of diabetes. Essentially, to be determined as pre-diabetic, someone would have to have a higher blood sugar level than normal but not high enough at this stage to be deemed as diabetic. It is a strong indication that someone could develop the condition if they are unable to make certain lifestyle changes.
It is important to note that here in the UK there is no defined criteria for someone who has prediabetes. Similarly, it isn’t officially a clinical term which is recognised by the World Health Organisation. Therefore , why do experts still use the term? Doctors and scholars decide to still use this terminology because it is effective when talking to patients about the serious risk diabetes could pose to their lives. Around 10% of those with prediabetes go onto to develop type 2 diabetes which further highlights the damage that this is having on people in the UK.
What are the symptoms?
There are very few actual symptoms for diabetes as it is a gradual process which will often go unnoticed. This perhaps explains why there is little public knowledge of prediabetes and why it might go largely undetected. However, if your blood sugar is higher than normal then an individual may experience the following symptoms:
- Feeling constant bouts of tiredness and lethargy.
- Having to visit the bathroom more frequently.
- Often both hungrier and thirstier than usual.
- The ability to lose weight despite eating more.
Causes and Risk:
Ultimately, prediabetes will start when the body finds it more difficult to use the hormone insulin. This hormone is essential for transporting glucose, which is needed for energy, into the bloodstream. For those with prediabetes, it is often difficult for the body to produce enough insulin or use it inefficiently.
As a result of this, if there is lack of insulin in the body, the danger is building up too much glucose, resulting in a higher-than-normal blood sugar level or the onset of prediabetes. There are some associated risk factors for the development of prediabetes which are as follows:
Age – It is the unfortunate reality that those who are older have a greater likelihood of developing prediabetes. After 50 the chances of acquiring the condition starts to rise and after the age of 65 the risk starts to rise exponentially.
Inactivity – The reality is that if someone is not physically active, then they are more likely to develop the condition.
Weight – This often goes hand-in-hand with being physically inactive. The chances are, if someone is regularly inactive, they are more likely to put on weight and in turn develop pre diabetes. An individual is at particularly high risk of developing pre diabetes if the additional weight is carried in the stomach.
Family History – Unfortunately, the accident of birth comes into effect as there is a hereditary factor to the condition. If someone in the immediate family has prediabetes then the chances of the condition emerging are increased.
What are the treatments?
The best form of detecting any form of diabetes is to first go and visit a doctor or specialist so that they are able to advise accordingly. However, the common recommendations to prevent prediabetes from occurring in the first place are:
There are a whole host of benefits associated with exercise, not least by helping to prevent type two diabetes. For example, when exercising the body will use more glucose thus lowering blood sugar. Furthermore, when exercising the body doesn’t need as much insulin to actually transport the glucose, ensuring your body becomes less insulin resistant. A lower insulin resistance is great for those with prediabetes as it is often otherwise used inefficiently.
As well as potentially preventing type two diabetes, there are also other significant benefits to exercise. For example, it has the ability to help someone to lose weight, sleep better, improve concentration and ensure a restful night’s sleep, as well as a host of other psychological benefits. As little as thirty minutes exercise per day such as jogging, swimming or intense walking is enough to offset the condition. If you’re not sure where to start with exercise then take a look at 5 tips to keep active around the home.
They say you are what you eat and this is certainly true when it comes to preventing type two diabetes. A registered dietitian, sometimes available through the NHS, will be able to create diet plans in order to achieve the ideal blood sugar level. The meal plans are often tailored to individuals, taking into account their overall health, physical activity and normal eating regime. The aim of the plan is to regulate the blood glucose level to sit within a normal range.
Losing weight will often coincide with achieving more exercise and eating well. However, far from the fad diet regimes that have gained attraction in recent years, the goal should be to sustain a healthy weight through better lifestyle choices.
In fact, if someone is overweight then it is essential to start a weight loss programme as soon as they are diagnosed with prediabetes. By shifting just ten percent of weight, the risk of getting type two diabetes significantly drops.
The most important thing to consider when treating early onset diabetes or pre diabetes is to try and make positive lifestyle choices. For instance, the overriding aim should not be to lose weight, eat well or achieve more exercise individually, instead this should be viewed as holistic process where all the elements are needed. In this case, the whole is certainly greater than the sum of its parts.