What is prediabetes and how can you reverse it?— Diet Doctor

Evidence based

Have you been told that you have prediabetes or that you’re at risk for type 2 diabetes? You’re not alone. Prediabetes is extremely common, affecting more than one third of all American adults. The good news is that you can control, or even reverse, this condition by making a few simple diet and lifestyle changes — no medications required. 

Read on to learn about prediabetes and the steps you can take today to reverse it.

What is prediabetes?

Prediabetes is a health condition in which your blood sugar levels are above the normal range but not high enough for you to be diagnosed with diabetes.

It is one of the most common conditions in the modern world, and the number of people affected by this condition is growing steadily.

According to one study, about 88 million adults living in the US had prediabetes in 2020. Today, the CDC estimates that roughly 96 million American adults have prediabetes — about 38% of the US population, or more than 1 in 3 people. And most people with prediabetes are unaware that they have it.  

By contrast, the CDC estimates that about 37 million American adults, or 1 in 7 people, have diabetes.

Where does the high blood sugar come from?

The sugar (glucose) in your blood comes from eating certain foods and from your liver. Your liver stores sugar and releases it into your bloodstream as needed.

When you eat sugar and starches, they are broken down into glucose and quickly absorbed into your blood. This causes your blood sugar to begin rising. In response, your pancreas produces insulin, a hormone that directs glucose to move from your blood into your cells. When this is working well, the sugar, or glucose, in your blood stays within a narrow range.

If you have prediabetes, in most cases, your pancreas produces insulin normally, but your cells don’t fully respond to insulin’s effects. This is called insulin resistance, and it causes blood sugar to increase above the healthy range. As a result, your pancreas produces even more insulin in an attempt to return high blood sugar to normal levels.

During prediabetes, your blood sugar and insulin levels may gradually increase over several years. In short, you don’t go from having normal blood sugar one day to having type 2 diabetes the next. It’s an evolving process. And prediabetes is the intermediate step.

In some cases, diabetes complications can start developing during the prediabetes stage — including eye, kidney, and nerve damage — years before any symptoms occur. Having prediabetes also increases your risk of heart disease.

So, it’s important to take prediabetes seriously.

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