Is Your Blood Sugar Level Higher Than Normal?

Diabetes mellitus is a chronic condition that occurs when the body isn't able to use sugar as energy. This excess sugar in your blood can lead to serious health problems. Most people are familiar with the two types of chronic diabetes; type 1 and type 2, but did you know there is a third category called prediabetes?

Prediabetes is the medical term used for people whose blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to meet the established criteria for diabetes mellitus. The exact cause is unknown, but family history, genetics, lack of regular exercise and being overweight with excess fat around your abdomen are important factors to consider. Of course, along with a cause always come risk factors. Some factors that increase your chances of developing prediabetes include:

  • Being overweight – especially around your abdomen
  • Waist size – large waist sizes can indicate insulin resistance
  • Diet – eating red meat, processed meat and sugar-sweetened beverages
  • Inactivity – the less active you are, the greater at risk you are
  • Age – increased risk after age 45, but it can develop at any age
  • Gestational diabetes – if you had diabetes when you were pregnant, you and your child are at higher risk of developing prediabetes
  • Sleep apnea - this increases risk of insulin resistance
  • Tobacco smoke – smoking may increase insulin resistance

It's important to know that prediabetes is a precursor of diabetes type 2 if steps to manage your blood sugar aren't taken. If you have prediabetes, the long term damage of diabetes may already be starting. This makes screening for a diagnosis extremely important in order to prevent this progression (when possible). Although prediabetes is mostly asymptomatic and doesn't usually have any signs, one possible sign is darkened skin on certain parts of the body such as the neck, armpits, elbows, knees and knuckles.

If you think you may be concerned that you've moved from prediabetes to type 2 diabetes, you may notice the following signs and symptoms:

  • Increased thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Dry mouth
  • Excess hunger
  • Fatigue
  • Blurred vision

The good news is, there are lifestyle choices you can make each day to help bring your blood sugar level back to normal and prevent the progression to type 2 diabetes. You can:

  • Following a healthy diet high in vegetables, nuts, and whole grains
  • Cook meals at home more often
  • Being mindful of portion sizes
  • Drink water instead of soda or juice
  • Make physical activity a part of your daily routine. Start slow and increase to 150 minutes of moderate aerobic physical activity (about 30 minutes) most days of the week
  • Staying at a healthy weight (losing 5-10% of your total weight will make a huge difference)
  • Don't smoke
  • Control your blood pressure and cholesterol

Remember, every effort counts and don't be afraid to seek support from family and friends. Making permanent, healthy changes takes time and it's best to start with small changes instead of trying to do everything all at once. Set realistic goals and keep going regardless if you slip back to your previous habits. Consider this a journey of a lifetime and it's never too late to start again, especially when it comes to your health.