People who meet some but not all of the diagnostic criteria for diabetes aren’t in the clear. Elevated blood sugar is dangerous even if it’s not quote high enough to be classified as diabetes. It’s called prediabetes, because if blood sugar is already high, it is likely that, left unchecked, it will rise until it does become type 2 diabetes, generally within ten years. In addition, high blood sugar can cause damage even if it’s not quite up to diabetes levels. People with prediabetes, however, still have a chance to make the lifestyle changes that can turn things around.
A diagnosis of prediabetes is a prophet, warning people of type 2 diabetes in their futures if they don’t change their ways. It’s a wake-up call, to do what is necessary to avoid diabetes:
- Quit smoking
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Eat a balanced diet
- Get enough exercise
- Get enough sleep every night
Among the biggest risk factors for prediabetes is a family history of diabetes. Non-obese people with a family history of diabetes are both substantially more likely to get prediabetes in the first place and more likely to have it develop into diabetes than non-obese people without a family history. The effect is less in obese people, because obesity is such a major risk factor itself that researchers think it overshadowed and erased the increased vulnerability that is demonstrated by having diabetic family members.
There are no symptoms of prediabetes, generally, since as a precursor to diabetes, it is typically sub-clinical. Diabetes symptoms—heightened thirst and urinary frequency, tiredness, blurred vision—and darkened skin in the armpits, elbows, or knees, may mean prediabetes; anyone displaying these symptoms should contact a doctor for a blood pressure check. People who have a family history of diabetes, are overweight or obese, are inactive, are over 45, or have polycystic ovarian syndrome should be getting tested regularly, so that action can be taken sooner rather than later.