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You've Been Told You're Pre-Diabetic. Now What?

Being diagnosed as pre-diabetic can be a confusing time. After leaving the doctor’s office, you may even ask yourself questions like “does this mean I am going to get diabetes?” or “do I have to change my entire life?” Questions like these are entirely normal and feelings of stress or anxiety are also normal after a new diagnosis. We sat down with Mark Bridenstine, MD, Banner Health endocrinologist, to discuss common questions.

Q: What does it mean to have “pre-diabetes”?

A: Having pre-diabetes means blood sugar levels are relatively higher in the blood stream, but not high enough to be diagnosed with diabetes. A pre-diabetes diagnosis can be diagnosed a few different ways, the most common is a hemoglobin A1c test. This measures the percentage of hemoglobulin on red blood cells that have been “sugar coated”. It’s a simple, easy, and fairly accurate screening blood test that does not require fasting. There are some limitations to the test such as certain health conditions that could falsely elevate or lower A1c – such as iron deficiency, other anemias, kidney disease, recent surgery or red blood cell transfusion.

Q: What lifestyle changes need to happen when diagnosed as having pre-diabetes?

A: There is no one-size-fits-all approach as far as optimal diet or amount/type of exercise, but generally effective ideas include: avoiding sugary drink, reducing consumption of foods with processed/added sugar as possible, limiting portion sizes of all carbohydrates, filling more of your plate with non-starchy vegetables and limiting alcohol. Be active and get at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week. Whether it’s a brisk walk or a more intense exercise, doing something to keep yourself moving is better than nothing.

Q: Does having pre-diabetes mean you are certainly going to have diabetes?

A: There is an approximate 10% risk per year of someone with pre-diabetes developing overt diabetes. That means, if nothing is changed, there is a very high likelihood an individual with pre-diabetes will develop overt diabetes within 5-10 years of the diagnosis. About 1 in 3 adults have pre-diabetes and a significant number of individuals do not even know they have pre-diabetes or overt diabetes. Just like with overt diabetes, pre-diabetes can be prevented, and treatment is much easier and effective the sooner you start.

While it may feel overwhelming at first, being diagnosed with pre-diabetes is not the end of the world. Meet with a Banner Health physician near you to learn steps you can take to better your health and treat a pre-diabetic diagnosis.

Diabetes Endocrinology
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