Understanding Diabetes and Prediabetes

Content by: Jamie Rinaldi, RD, MS in Applied Physiology & Nutrition

Type 2 diabetes has become an epidemic, affecting about twenty-one million Americans, according to the American Diabetes Association. Unfortunately, more than 30% of that twenty-one million are undiagnosed. Read more!

Understanding Diabetes and Prediabetes

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Type 2 diabetes is a huge concern in this country. And, according to research, there are an additional 40 to 60 million Americans with prediabetes. People with prediabetes are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes later in life unless they modify their eating and exercise behaviors.

What is prediabetes?
🔹Prediabetes is a condition in which the blood glucose levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to be called diabetes. A glycated hemoglobin (HbA1C) between 5.7% and 6.4% or a fasting blood sugar between 100 mg/dl and 125 mg/dl is required to diagnose one as prediabetic.

What is type 2 diabetes?
🔹Type 2 diabetes is a condition in which the body is unable to use insulin properly, due to inadequate production of insulin by the pancreas and/or reduced insulin sensitivity of the body’s cells. Since insulin regulates the storage of carbohydrates in the muscles, liver, and fat, blood glucose levels rise to higher than normal levels. Chronically elevated blood sugars can damage the body’s organs, leading to complications such as retinopathy, which can result in blindness, and nephropathy, which may cause end stage renal failure requiring dialysis, among other unwelcome conditions. Risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes include prediabetes, obesity, physical inactivity, advanced age, and family history.

How are prediabetes and type 2 diabetes managed?
🔹Prediabetes and type 2 diabetes can often be managed with a balanced diet, exercise, and weight management. In other cases, medications or insulin injections are required. The goal is to keep blood glucose levels as close to normal as possible. Adopting a healthy lifestyle and taking medications as prescribed are the best ways to achieve this.

Signs & symptoms:

🔸Increased hunger
🔸Abnormal thirst
🔸Frequent urination
🔸Blurred vision
🔸Fatigue

Additional symptoms, such as unexplained weight loss and numbness or tingling in the extremities, may also be present with Type 2 Diabetes.

🔅Tip of the day...
Early detection is key! Individuals with any of the risk factors or symptoms should see a physician for testing and diagnosis. Those 45+ in age should have their fasting blood glucose tested every 3 years, at a minimum. The longer the body is exposed to high blood glucose levels, the greater the damage may be.

Next steps:
1️⃣ Follow a healthful eating plan, including plenty of high fiber produce, whole grains, dairy foods, and good sources of protein (beans, nuts, skinless turkey breast, fish, e.g.).

2️⃣ Exercise! Engage in some sort of physical activity for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week.

3️⃣ Maintain a healthy weight!

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