Adolescent Health Clinic: Prediabetes
What is prediabetes?
Prediabetes means you have a higher than normal blood sugar level. It does not mean that you have diabetes, or that you will definitely develop diabetes, but it does mean that you are at a higher risk for getting diabetes in the future.
Wait, so what exactly is diabetes?
- Diabetes is a chronic disease. In someone with diabetes, their body has trouble managing blood sugar.
- Blood sugar, or glucose, is the main sugar found in blood, which comes from food someone eats. It is the body’s main source of energy.
- In diabetes, someone’s blood sugar is often too high.
- Over time, this leads to problems with a person’s kidneys, heart, eyes, and more. It can cause very serious health problems like blindness, kidney failure, chronic pain, heart disease and heart attacks, or strokes.
That sounds scary. Should I be worried about prediabetes?
- The good news is that prediabetes is treatable and even reversible!
- If you have prediabetes, this is a great time to start making some healthy changes to protect against developing diabetes, or even reverse your prediabetes completely.
How is prediabetes diagnosed?
Prediabetes is diagnosed by lab tests like your blood sugar level. We can also check your body’s blood sugar level average over the past 3 months with a test called the hemoglobin A1C.
- Normal A1C: Below 5.7%
- Pre-diabetes: 5.7% to 6.4%
- Diabetes: 6.5% or above
Why do I have prediabetes? Is it my fault?
- Prediabetes is not your fault!
- The reasons someone develops prediabetes are complicated. There is no way to predict who will or will not develop prediabetes.
- Prediabetes and diabetes have a strong genetic component, meaning they can run in families. So, if you have a parent or grandparent with diabetes, you are at higher risk of developing it.
- Prediabetes can, for some people, be connected to nutrition and the types of food someone eats. This is complicated, though. Some people have very healthy diets and low weight and develop prediabetes. Some people have unhealthy diets and high weight, and don’t develop prediabetes.
- For many people, getting prediabetes is just bad luck. The good news is that we can help treat it and help prevent it from developing into diabetes!
What can I do to help treat or reverse prediabetes?
- Increase your physical activity.
- Being active helps your body manage your blood sugar! Any kind of movement or physical activity is helpful.
- If you are not very active right now, start by adding short walks to your day. Adding two 10-minute walks every day can help a lot!
- If you are already active, increase the intensity of your physical activity, or increase the duration.
- Consider adding strength training to your physical activity. Strength training can include exercises like lifting weights or using your body weight to do exercises like squats, lunges, planks, etc. Your doctor can place a referral to physical therapy if you need help learning how to do strength training, and this should be covered by insurance for most patients.
- Increase the fiber in your diet.
- High fiber diets help your body regulate your blood sugar. For example, if you eat an apple, that apple contains fiber, which helps slow any blood sugar spikes and keeps your blood sugar regular. If you drink apple juice, however, there is no fiber – your blood sugar will go up after drinking apple juice because there isn’t fiber to help slow down the blood sugar spike. For this reason, fruits and vegetables are much better than the juiced versions.
- Whole foods like beans, lentils, brown rice, and whole wheat breads are good sources of fiber, which keeps your blood sugar regulated. Choose whole foods and whole grains over white rice or white bread whenever possible!
- Increase the fruits and vegetables in your diet.
- Fruits and vegetables are good for you in a lot of ways! They contain powerful anti-inflammatory chemicals and vitamins that help your overall health. Because they are often high in fiber, they can also help your body manage blood glucose.
- When someone eats lots of fruits and vegetables, they often find that they eat less processed foods (like chips, candy, cookies, etc.). Processed foods are usually low in fiber and high in sugar, which can make your blood sugar spike.
- So should I be on a diet?
- We don’t recommend dieting for teenagers. We don’t want you to count calories or avoid entire food groups. Dieting during teenage years is the biggest risk factor for developing an eating disorder, which can be life threatening. Dieting also increases the risk of gaining weight in the long term.
- Instead of dieting, focus on increasing your physical activity, and increasing the parts of your nutrition that we know are helpful for pre-diabetes: increased fiber, and increased fruits and vegetables.
- When we add healthy, nutrient-dense foods (like fruits, vegetables, and high fiber whole foods) to our diet rather than cut things out, our bodies don’t feel deprived.
- You can still eat cookies, cakes, and processed foods! Food is important culturally and emotionally, and we don’t want any type of food to ever be off-limits.
- If you can, limit the number of sugar-sweetened beverages you drink, like soda, juice, energy drinks, or sweet coffee drinks. These are high in sugar and have very little nutritional value, so this is the one thing that we recommend limiting.
Are there medicines I can take that will help with prediabetes?
Yes. Medicines like metformin can help treat or reverse prediabetes. Ask your provider for more details about medications.
This information is not specific to your child but provides general information. If you have any questions, please call your clinic.
This page is not specific to your child, but provides general information on the topic above. If you have any questions, please call your clinic. For more reading material about this and other health topics, please call or visit Children's Minnesota Family Resource Center library, or visit www.childrensmn.org/educationmaterials.
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