Ask the Medical Expert: Prediabetes
EDITOR'S NOTE: The following column will be an interactive question-and-answer feature appearing the first Wednesday of each month. Readers are encouraged to send health-related questions that will be answered by a local medical professional to email@example.com. Today's question below is being answered by Michael Grimes, M.D., a family physician with the Alliance Community Medical Foundation.
Q. I am overweight, lack energy and crave sugar. I have been told that I may be prediabetic. Is that possible since I am still in high school? Matt J., Alliance
A. Prediabetes is a worldwide epidemic. In the United States alone it affects 79 million people, or one in three adults and nearly one in four adolescents.
Prediabetes is exactly as the name implies -- a condition that may develop prior to developing type 2 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes is a condition that is caused by the body's inability to produce sufficient insulin or its inability to use the insulin it produces in the proper way.
Though prediabetes can happen at any age, it most often affects middle-aged adults and the older one gets the easier it is to obtain. Prediabetes puts a person at risk for not only type 2 diabetes but for a stroke or heart disease as well.
Symptoms of prediabetes, while often difficult to detect, may include one or more the following:
Weight loss, even if eating more.
Larger appetite than normal.
Thirstier than normal along with frequent urination.
A physician should be consulted if any of the symptoms above are present.
Some risk factors for this disease are:
Overweight, specifically in the abdomen, the increased number of fat cells can make one resistant to insulin.
Not physically active.
Family history of prediabetes.
High cholesterol and high triglycerides.
Need for stimulants.
A prior diagnosis of gestational diabetes increases the risk of prediabetes.
It should be noted that certain races or ethnic groups are more susceptible to prediabetes; these include African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, Native- Americans and Asian-Americans. Also, the older one gets the more at risk one becomes to developing prediabetes
The good news is that prediabetes is reversible. In other words use the "pre" part of the diagnosis to your advantage. Prediabetes means you don't have diabetes -- yet. So what can you do to reverse the process and not become diabetic?
First, start with a healthy diet. Eat more fruits and vegetables and cut down or eliminate red meat and doughnuts. Also, cook more at home so you can control your portions. The trend in restaurants these days is to give you heaping portions and the temptation is to follow mom's advice and clean the plate. Plus, we want to make sure we eat all our food to get our money's worth, right? In this case, resist being a clean plater.
Second, drink plenty of liquids, especially the world's No. 1 thirst quencher -- water. Marketers and advertisers will try to talk you into buying their sugar-laden sports drinks, but water is your best hydrator. Remember in your elementary health class you learned that the human body is 60 percent water? There's a reason our body craves good old H2O -- it's been around longer than Gatorade.
Third, get plenty of exercise. God bless the Fitbit, since it has turned some couch potatoes into step-counters. But you really don't need to join the Fitbit crowd to start exercising. Set modest goals to begin, including walking and jogging, and you will find the activity is contagious and your body will crave mobility over just sitting around.
Finally, keep the weight at the low end of your range. Following the first three steps will likely result in the desired weight loss, but set some goals. Depending on how overweight you are, set modest goals to begin with. Even a pound a month will result in a loss of 12 pounds in a year and you will feel the difference.
So, while it is possible that you are prediabetic, it is not a hopeless diagnosis. As a doctor, I can help, but ultimately it will be up to you to try and alter your course.