Diabetes is a serious disease. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), more than 37 million people in the United States have diabetes, and it is the 7th leading cause of death in the United States. Diabetes causes more deaths per year than breast cancer and AIDS combined. Living with diabetes nearly doubles the potential chance of experiencing a heart attack. Managing diabetes can reduce the overall risk for health complications. Understanding and identifying prediabetes can potentially eliminate the diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes. There is no known cure for diabetes, prediabetes, however, is reversible, and curable. You can reverse a prediabetes diagnosis with lifestyle changes. Increasing exercise, changing your diet, and following your healthcare provider’s advice are all steps that can lead towards reversing a prediabetes diagnosis. Prediabetes should be taken very seriously, and it can lead to a Type 2 diabetes diagnosis, however, with lifestyle changes a diabetes diagnosis can be prevented or delayed. The CDC National Diabetes Prevention Program directly addresses the steps needed to potentially prevent and delay a diabetes diagnosis. Small lifestyle changes can make a significant difference in the prevention of diabetes
Know your definitions:
- Prediabetes: Prediabetes is a serious health condition where blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not high enough yet to be diagnosed as Type 2 diabetes. Over 95 million American adults – more than 1 in 3 – have prediabetes. Those with an A1C level of 5.7% to 6.4% or greater A1C or fasting plasma glucose of 100-125 mg/dL are diagnosed with prediabetes. Any A1C level above 6.5% or fast plasma glucose over 125mg/dL are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
- Type 2 Diabetes: Type 2 diabetes is when your cells are not responding normally to insulin, you can become insulin resistant over time as your pancreas produces more insulin but eventually it cannot keep up, resulting in a Type 2 diabetes diagnosis.
- A1C Test: Measures the percentage of red blood cells that have sugar-coated hemoglobin. Higher A1C levels can help identify prediabetes and potential diabetes complications.
- Blood Sugar: Food that is consumed is broken down into blood sugar (glucose) that fuels cells in your body. When blood sugar levels are too high, the body produces insulin to get blood sugar into the cells. Over time, cells stop responding to insulin and become insulin resistant. The pancreas attempts to keep up, but blood sugar keeps rising.
- Fasting Blood Sugar Test: Measuring blood sugars following an overnight fast. Fasting blood sugar level of 100-125 mg/dL (milligrams per deciliter) is classified as prediabetes. Blood sugar level of 125 mg/dL or higher is classified as diabetes.
- Insulin: A hormone produced by the pancreas that lets your body allow blood sugar into the cells for your body to use for energy.
Living with Diabetes:
An important thing to remember is that many prediabetes risk factors are outside of a person’s control. Age, sex, race, and family history, all have an impact on the risk of prediabetes. The location where someone grew up or any adverse childhood experiences can play a role as well. It is never wise to assume poor choices were all that led to a Type 2 diabetes diagnosis. Encourage those with prediabetes to focus on the things they can control to make the healthiest and most impactful changes to prevent or delay diabetes.
Managing diabetes can be overwhelming, stressful, and discouraging. These experiences and feelings can be classified as diabetes distress. Diabetes distress can include anxiety or depression. Seeking support and help for mental health care is a key step in managing diabetes. There are many misconceptions about living with diabetes, one of which is that those with diabetes can’t be active. This is untrue, as exercise plays a key role in the management of diabetes. Exercise can help drive weight loss and reduce blood pressure, both elements which are risk factors for diabetes complications. Exercise can even help the body utilize insulin better. Exercise still should be taken cautiously when managing diabetes because it can impact blood sugar, either raising it or lowering it.
Some natural products may claim to cure or reverse the effects of diabetes but there is no known cure for diabetes. In some cases, herbal or natural treatments can be harmful to those with diabetes. Herbal supplements and vitamins can interact with diabetes medications and lower blood sugar levels to life threatening levels or increase risk of diabetes complications.
There are health risks that can increase following a diabetes diagnosis that are important to be aware. For example, those with type 2 diabetes are encouraged to get a flu shot because any illness can increase the difficulty of managing diabetes. People with diabetes are more likely to develop serious complications from the flu or COVID-19. Diabetes increases the risk of hospitalization and death from COVID-19 infection. Chronic kidney disease (CKD) occurs in 1 of 3 adults with diabetes. It is important that anyone with diabetes gets their kidneys checked regularly. With diabetes you are twice as likely to have heart disease or a stroke. Nerve damage, hearing loss, and oral health are all areas of concern for those with diabetes. Although there are increased risks with illness and CKD, there is no increased risk of getting the flu or cold for someone with diabetes. Diabetes can lead to blindness and amputations, but it is often rare and when diabetes is managed carefully, it lowers the risk. Only 11.7% of adults with diabetes have some level of vision impairment. Lower-extremity amputation occurs in around 0.56% of people with diabetes.
Managing Diabetes and Prediabetes:
The most important thing to know is that through small healthy lifestyle changes, it is possible to prevent type 2 diabetes. A ground-breaking study funded by the CDC and National Institutes of Health (NIH) showed that millions of high-risk people could indeed delay or avoid developing type 2 diabetes through this lifestyle intervention programming known as a Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP). In fact, participants in the program reduced their risk for developing diabetes by 58 percent.
A Diabetes Prevention Program is a one-year program led by a trained lifestyle coach. It focuses on long-term lifestyle changes including healthy eating, stress reduction and increased physical activity. Participants in a Diabetes Prevention Program learn skills necessary to lead a healthy lifestyle, including:
- Eating healthy without cutting the foods you love
- Increasing physical activity
- Managing stress
- Overcoming challenges that come from forming habits
Learn more about the benefits of a DPP Program here.
In addition to Diabetes Prevention, Telligen also offers Diabetes Management as part of our Disease Management Program. Telligen’s certified diabetic educators build relationships with members and their families and/or caregivers to understand their conditions. We coordinate healthcare treatments and coordinate with providers on evidence-based practices to improve the health of members and manage costs.