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Prediabetes - symptoms and management

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a metabolic disease that is usually associated with high levels of blood glucose (or blood sugar). Without proper care and treatment, blood glucose levels will remain high which causes major health problems. Particularly in the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys, and nerves according to the World Health Organisation. It is estimated that over 309,00 adults in Ireland will have diabetes by the year 2035 according to the IDF (International Diabetes Federation).

Type 2 diabetes

Though you can develop type 2 diabetes at any age, it is most common in adults. It occurs as the body becomes resistant to insulin or doesn’t make enough.

Type 1 diabetes

Type 1 diabetes, once referred to as juvenile diabetes, is a condition in which the pancreas produces little or no insulin by itself. This is a result of the immune system attacking and destroying the cells in the pancreas that create insulin, thus insulin injections everyday are required for survival.

What is prediabetes?

Prediabetes means you have higher than normal blood glucose levels (or blood sugar) but not enough to be diagnosed with diabetes. Prediabetes often occurs in people whom already have some level of insulin resistance or when the pancreas isn’t making enough insulin. Without lifestyle changes, people with prediabetes have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Symptoms

  • Blurred vision
  • Fatigue
  • Increased thirst
  • Frequent urination

Characteristics of a prediabetic

  • Overweight or obese
  • Age 45 and older 
  • Physical inactivity  
  • History of heart disease or a stroke
  • Family history (risk of diabetes increases if you have a parent or sibling with diabetes)

Treatment

Evidence suggests that prediabetes is a highly reversible condition, according to the HSE weight loss and increased levels of physical activity, as well as moving towards a healthier diet. A study conducted by the NIH found that individuals with a high risk of developing diabetes significantly reduced their chance of developing the disease by losing 5% - 7% of their weight. 

These measures should be taken at your own pace, removing all unhealthy foods from your diet is not sustainable long term. Similarly with exercise, choose an activity you enjoy such as walking, and commit to a 30 minute walk one evening a week, and progress when you are ready.

Minor diet changes that make a major difference

  • Avoiding sugar in the diet
  • Reducing the amount of carbs you eat
  • Eating a diet  low in processed foods
  • Reducing your alcohol intake
  • Avoiding sedentary behaviour
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