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Preventing Diabetes: A Window of Opportunity
August 6, 2012
Every now and then I’m asked to speak to journalists about various diabetes or nutrition-related topics. Interestingly, over the past few months, writers have asked me to comment on diabetes prevention — is it possible? What, if anything, really works?
Now, I realize that many of you already have diabetes. I wish I could say that if you did X, Y, or Z, you could make your diabetes go away, but right now, that’s not possible. But maybe some of you who are reading this are at risk for diabetes (it runs in the family, your doctor has told you that your blood glucose is a little high, etc.), or perhaps you’ve been diagnosed with prediabetes. Or you might have a family member, friend, neighbor or colleague who’s at risk. Is it inevitable that diabetes is coming down the pike? What can be done to hold it off?
First Things First
At risk. You’re at risk for Type 2 diabetes if you have any of the following risk factors:
Reading this list, you’d think that almost everyone is at risk for diabetes. And the list is not meant to scare you, but it is intended to make you take notice. If you or a loved one can say “yes” to having any of the items on the list, it’s definitely worthwhile having a frank discussion with your physician to A) get checked for diabetes and B) find out what you can to do prevent it or, if you have it, how to best treat it.
About 26 million people in the US have diabetes (that’s 8% of the population), but 7 million of those people have no clue that they have diabetes. You or a loved one don’t want to be part of that “clueless” statistic.
Prediabetes. According to the American Diabetes Association, prediabetes is defined as “blood glucose levels that are higher than normal but not yet high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes.” You may have risk factors for diabetes, such as being Asian American, having a parent with diabetes, or having had gestational diabetes, for example, but that doesn’t mean you have prediabetes. Prediabetes is actually a medical diagnosis, just as, say, diabetes or high blood pressure is diagnosed in your doctor’s office.
In order to know if you have prediabetes (and diabetes, too, by the way), your doctor needs to order one of three tests for you:
• A fasting plasma glucose (FPG) test: Your blood glucose is measured in a lab (not on a meter) first thing in the morning after not eating or drinking anything (except water) for at least 8 hours.
• An oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT): For this test, you drink a very sweet drink that contains 75 grams of glucose. Your blood glucose is measured before and two hours after drinking the drink.
• A hemoglobin A1C: This is a blood test that measures your average blood glucose level over the past 2–3 months.
It’s important that any of these tests be repeated a second time to confirm a diagnosis. And remember that prediabetes or diabetes can’t be diagnosed using a home blood glucose meter or using an over-the-counter A1C kit.
Next week: Prediabetes is diagnosed. Now what?
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