This is your body’s check engine light that you shouldn’t ignore
When the check engine light goes on in your car, it’s a sign that something is wrong.
Prediabetes is the same for the human body. It’s a way for your body to say “Warning! Something isn’t right. Pay attention to me!”
Just like ignoring the check engine light can lead to expensive repairs to your car, ignoring prediabetes can lead to much bigger issues, sometimes irreversible damage, years later.
Prediabetes is the beginning stage of diabetes. It’s when blood glucose levels are higher than the normal range, but not high enough to be considered Type 2 diabetes. Either the beta cells in your pancreas stop producing as much insulin or your cells become resistant to insulin.
Insulin is important because it helps glucose get into cells to be used for energy. With lower insulin production and/or insulin resistance, blood glucose instead stays elevated in the bloodstream.
While perceived as “borderline diabetes,” don’t let the “pre” in prediabetes fool you.
More recent research shows that major changes are happening in the body, even in the early stages of prediabetes. High blood glucose levels impair the lining of both small and large blood vessels, leading to damage to your nerves (neuropathy), eyes (retinopathy), and kidneys (nephropathy) as well as the heart. In fact, studies are now showing that having prediabetes is a strong predictor of cardiovascular disease in the future.
Unfortunately, your body may not give you a clear warning sign like your car’s check engine light. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 1-in-3 American adults have prediabetes and 84% don’t know they have it. That’s why it’s important to have regular checkups with your doctor. Your doctor can run tests like a fasting glucose, a hemoglobin A1c, or a 2-hour plasma glucose test to catch prediabetes early.
While prediabetes sounds scary, the good news is that research also shows that prediabetes can be reversed through these three main lifestyle changes.
- Follow a healthy eating plan similar to a Mediterranean Diet
- Move your body. Aim for 150 minutes or more of physical activity each week
- If overweight, lose a small amount of weight (5 to 10% loss)
There’s real power in lifestyle change. Living a healthy lifestyle can reverse course and prevent progression to Type 2 diabetes by up to 58%. Without lifestyle change, prediabetes often progresses to Type 2 diabetes within 10 years.
Want to learn more about your risk for prediabetes? Take a free, quick, online diabetes assessment by clicking here.
Learn more about women and heart health risk by contacting The Karen Yontz Women’s Cardiac Awareness Center at (414) 649-5767.
About the Author
Heather Klug, MEd RD is a registered dietitian and cardiac educator at the Karen Yontz Women's Cardiac Awareness Center inside Aurora St. Luke's Medical Center in Milwaukee, WI.