How can I reverse prediabetes? Is it even reversible?
More than 84 million people ages 18 and older have prediabetes in the United States. This means that about 1 out of every 3 adults in the United States have prediabetes. People with prediabetes have up to a 50 percent chance of developing diabetes over the next 5 to 10 years.
Let’s find out what are the signs of prediabetes and how to reverse or manage your condition.
What is prediabetes?
Prediabetes means the blood glucose levels are higher than normal. However, it is not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes.
Prediabetes occurs in people with some insulin resistance or whose beta cells in the pancreas aren’t making enough insulin. Without enough insulin, blood glucose exceeds the normal range and extra glucose stays in the bloodstream instead of getting into the cells. Consequently, prediabetes leads to developing type 2 diabetes.
What are the signs and symptoms?
It is possible to have no clear symptoms, so prediabetes is often undetected until serious health problems (i.e. type 2 diabetes) show up.
Classic symptoms of type 2 diabetes:
Insulin resistance and prediabetes usually have no symptoms. Some people with prediabetes may have darkened skin in the armpit or on the back and sides of the neck, a condition called acanthosis nigricans. Many small skin growths called skin tags often appear in these same areas.
Even though blood glucose levels are not high enough to cause symptoms for most people, a few research studies have shown that some people with prediabetes may already have early changes in their eyes that can lead to retinopathy. This problem more often occurs in people with diabetes.
Who is more likely to develop insulin resistance or prediabetes?
There are genetic or lifestyle risk factors:
overweight or obesity
age 45 or older
a parent, brother, or sister with diabetes
African American, Alaska Native, American Indian, Asian American, Hispanic/Latino, Native Hawaiian, or Pacific Islander American ethnicity
health conditions such as high blood pressure and abnormal cholesterol levels
a history of gestational diabetes
a history of heart disease or stroke
polycystic ovary syndrome also called PCOS
Certain things also contribute to insulin resistance:
medications: glucocorticoids, antipsychotics, some medicines for HIV
hormonal disorders: Cushing’s syndrome and acromegaly
Following conditions are associated with prediabetes:
The combination of three or more of these conditions is called metabolic syndrome.
High blood pressure
Low levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, the “good” cholesterol
High levels of triglycerides
How is prediabetes diagnosed?
If you are overweight or have obesity and have one or more other risk factors for diabetes as listed above, or if you have a family history of type 2 diabetes, you should ask your doctor for a prediabetes test.
The most often used methods are the fasting plasma glucose (FPG) test or the A1C test.
The following test results show Prediabetes:
A1C — 5.7 to 6.4 percent
FPG — 100 to 125 mg/dL (milligrams per deciliter)
How to manage or reverse prediabetes?
Since untreated prediabetes leads to type 2 diabetes, treating prediabetes is essential to prevent type 2 diabetes.
Here are 5 tips to reverse prediabetes:
Lose weight (5 to 10 percent of body weight)
Regular physical activity: at least 150 minutes a week of brisk walking or similar activity (30 minutes a day, five days a week).
Eat healthy foods
Control blood pressure and cholesterol
National Diabetes Prevention Program, is a CDC-led program that helps patients to make lifestyle modifications and stick with them. The study showed that those who completed the programs lowered the risks of developing type 2 diabetes by as much as 58% (if greater than the age of 60, it was 71%).
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Insulin Resistance & Prediabetes. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
National Diabetes Statistics Report, 2017. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.
CDC. Prediabetes – Your Chance to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Marathe PH, Gao HX, Close KL. American Diabetes Association Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes 2017. J Diabetes. 2017;9(4):320-324.
Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP). National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
American Diabetes Association. 3. Prevention or Delay of Type 2 Diabetes: Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes-2019. Diabetes Care. 2019;42(Suppl 1):S29-S