Even as diabetes emerges as a silent killer in India, affecting over 70 million people, another problem that not many are aware of lurks in the background. Although this condition, known as prediabetes, currently affects over 80 million people in the country, only 10 per cent are aware of it. Prediabetes is a warning sign and an indication that an individual may go on to develop Type 2 diabetes later in life. In those who are prediabetic, the fasting blood glucose level falls in the range of 100 and 125mg/dL. It is diagnosed with the help of an oral glucose tolerance test and Glycated haemoglobin (HBA1c) test. The biggest cause for concern is the fact that people with this condition do not exhibit any symptoms initially. With time, they may experience excessive thirst, frequent urination, and fatigue apart from the darkening of the skin in certain areas of the body.
While the exact cause of prediabetes is difficult to determine, family history is a major risk factor. The other factors include being obese or overweight, lack of regular physical activity, previous diagnosis of gestational diabetes, age, and ethnicity. In prediabetes, the body cannot process sugar (glucose) properly. Thus, instead of providing fuel to the cells, sugar starts building up in the bloodstream. This is because the pancreas does not make enough insulin, or the body cells become resistant to the action of insulin.
It is imperative to remember that not all prediabetes cases lead to a diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes eventually. It is possible to reverse the condition by making certain changes to one’s lifestyle. However, if left unmanaged, it can cause other potential long-term health complications including heart and kidney disease, disorders of the eye, foot, and nerve, among other things.
For those diagnosed with prediabetes, the first and foremost consideration should be to focus on a healthier lifestyle. From controlling body weight to getting regular physical activity, there are many small steps one can take to prevent the condition from progressing to Type 2 diabetes. Although it may seem like an uphill task, over time, it can help improve overall health and keep complications at bay.
Some such lifestyle changes are as follows.
Lose excess weight Research suggests that reducing about 5 per cent to 7 per cent of body weight, particularly around the belly, can reduce the risk of prediabetes.
Undertake regular exercise It is important to get at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day. This could include walking or swimming, or even gardening and swimming. Focus on increasing muscle mass as this can eventually help contribute to healthy weight gain and stabilize blood glucose levels.
Reduce stress Stress is a major risk factor for diabetes and therefore, one should focus on activities such as yoga and meditation that can help take off the everyday burden. Ensure that you get enough sleep.
Eat healthy A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can help keep not just prediabetes but any other health condition away. Ensure that you stick to a regular eating schedule and consume smaller meals regularly throughout the day. This will help avoid any spikes and dips in blood glucose levels. Avoid snacking and foods that have excess sugar in them.
Quit smoking and alcohol Nicotine is a stimulant and can raise blood glucose levels. Smoking also leads to insulin resistance over time and must be avoided. One should also limit alcohol to one glass a day.
Check your vitals If you are someone with a family history of diabetes or other risk factors, make sure to check your blood sugar levels at regular intervals. This will not only help in timely diagnosis and management but also in avoiding health complications.
Awareness and caution are at the core of averting any lifestyle disorder and this is true of diabetes as well. In India, the focus has mostly been on curative health. However, it is time that the focus now shifts on prevention so that conditions like prediabetes and Type 2 diabetes can be avoided.