How to deal with pre-diabetes

How to deal with pre-diabetes

Diabetes is a silent condition.

Some people have signs and symptoms that tell them things are not right.

If you think you have pre-diabetes or diabetes you should speak to your doctor.

As we get older we have an increased risk of developing pre-diabetes or diabetes.

Pre-diabetes/diabetes can be diagnosed with a blood test.

Sometimes people can have diabetes or pre-diabetes and feel completely well or the same as usual.

As we get older it is good to have regular check-ups and assessments with your health team to make sure you are in good health as this will also help to avoid or prevent any other health conditions related to diabetes or heart disease for example.

Pre-diabetes is a condition in which blood glucose levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes.

Pre-diabetes has no signs or symptoms, making it difficult to detect.

It is a risk factor for the development of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, such as heart disease and stroke.

Pre-diabetes affects about 16 per cent of adults in Australia.

Who is at risk of pre-diabetes?

Pre-diabetes usually occurs in adults but younger people can also develop this condition.

Risk factors for pre-diabetes are the same as those for type 2 diabetes. These include:

  • having a family history of type 2 diabetes
  • being above the healthy weight range
  • having an inactive lifestyle
  • being from an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander background
  • having gestational diabetes during pregnancy
  • having polycystic ovary syndrome.

People who have pre-diabetes can delay and, in some cases, prevent the development of type 2 diabetes by following a healthy lifestyle.

This includes regular physical activity, making healthy food choices and maintaining a healthy weight

How is pre-diabetes managed?

Pre-diabetes is managed by making healthy lifestyle changes to reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

These include:

Weight loss: If you are above the healthy weight range, losing as little as 5-10 per cent of your weight can help lower blood glucose levels and reduce your risk of developing diabetes and other conditions such as heart disease.

Medication, hormone levels and family history/genes can also cause weight issues.

By exercising and following a healthy and varied diet will help find a healthy weight for you.

Try not to concentrate too much on the number on the scales as it is just a number and not a measure of your worth.

Regular physical activity: Being active can help you manage your weight and reduce your blood glucose levels.

It can also help manage other risk factors, such as blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Aim to do at least 30 minutes of 'moderate intensity' physical activity (such as brisk walking or swimming) every day.

Try to include some resistance training (such as body weight exercises like squats or lunges or light weights) twice a week to improve the way your muscles work.

Always talk to your doctor before starting any new type of physical activity.

Try and think of activity you used to do and enjoy or if you have never exercised try out something new and see if you like it.

It is often easier to exercise, walk, swim with a friend or group as it is less lonely, you are more likely to do it and it is a great way of meeting people.

Exercise is good for so many things.

It lifts your mood, helps you sleep, increases fitness, strengthens muscles and bones, improves the way your body uses insulin plus many, many other benefits.

Healthy eating: Choose a wide variety of foods including fruit, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and low-fat dairy foods.

Include high-fibre, low-glycaemic index (GI) carbohydrate foods.

To manage your weight, it's important to reduce your total energy (kilojoule) intake.

Limiting saturated fat can also help your body's insulin work better and keep blood fats in the target range.

A dietitian can help by recommending the best food choices for weight loss and for reducing your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Reducing the amount of carbohydrates you eat and the portions of food on your plate will help with your health and wellbeing and also help to prevent or delay the onset of diabetes.

Blood pressure and blood fats (cholesterol and triglycerides): It's important to keep these in the target range that your doctor recommends.

Blood pressure and blood fats should be checked regularly.

Smoking: Smoking can also increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

If you smoke, try to quit.

Some people find this difficult, so if you feel you can't give up smoking on your own, ask for help - talk to your doctor or call the Quitline on 137 848.

If you have pre-diabetes, it's important to have an annual health check, including screening for type 2 diabetes.

By making healthy lifestyle changes, type 2 diabetes can often be prevented or delayed.

How is pre-diabetes diagnosed?

To diagnose pre-diabetes, your doctor will send you to have your blood glucose levels checked at a pathology lab.

There are two blood tests that can be used:

A fasting blood glucose or a non-fasting random blood glucose: This involves having blood taken from a vein in your arm.

This test may be done fasting (after nothing to eat or drink for at least eight hours) or non-fasting.

If your blood glucose levels are above the target range (but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes) you will need further testing.

An oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT): You will have a fasting blood glucose test first.

You will then be given a sugary drink and have your blood checked again two hours later.

The results from the OGTT will show whether your blood glucose levels are in the normal, pre-diabetes or diabetes range.

If you have any concerns it is good to see your local doctor for a check up.