We spoke with Tarandeep Kaur, MD, an endocrinologist with Dignity Health Medical Group — Stockton, to learn more about prediabetes and diabetes management.
Type 1, Type 2, and Prediabetes
Diabetes is a disease that occurs when the body doesn’t produce enough or respond to insulin, which is needed in order to convert blood sugar to energy. This results in high blood sugar, which can cause serious health problems that can impact the eyes, kidneys, nerves and heart.
- Type 1 is a genetic condition that often shows up early in life, occurring when the pancreas does not make any or enough insulin. Currently, 5-10% of people with diabetes have type 1. Those with type 1 diabetes must use insulin everyday to live. Often, family history of type 1 plays a part in those who develop it.
- Type 2 is a result of the body not responding as it usually would to insulin. The blood cells do not respond to the insulin created by the pancreas resulting in a rise in blood sugar. According to the CDC, 90-95% of people with diabetes have type 2, and it most often develops in people over the age of 45. Type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed with healthy lifestyle changes.
- Prediabetes is a serious health condition that is a result of blood sugar levels being higher than normal, but not high enough for a type 2 diabetes diagnosis. An estimated 96 million adults in the United States have prediabetes.
Prediabetes may not have any clear symptoms. Talk to your doctor about testing your blood sugar if you have any of the following risk factors:
- Are 45 years or older
- A close family member (parent or sibling) with type 2 diabetes
- Are physically active less than 3 times a week
- Have had gestational diabetes or have given birth to a baby weighing over nine pounds
- Have been diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome
According to the CDC, African Americans, Latino Americans, American Indians, Pacific Islanders, and some Asian Americans are at higher risk for prediabetes.
It is important to also know the signs of type 2 diabetes. Talk to your doctor about blood sugar testing if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms:
- Increased thirst
- Frequent urination
- Increased hunger
- Blurred vision
- Numbness or tingling in the feet or hands
- Frequent infections
- Slow-healing sores
- Unintended weight loss
The CDC shares that healthy lifestyle habits play a significant role in maintaining healthy blood sugar levels, and help prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes. Dr. Kaur agrees. She recommends everyone — those with diabetes and those at risk for developing prediabetes — focus on the below areas for optimal health, but notes to “ease into lifestyle adjustments because it can be difficult to change and maintain habits.”
- Be physically active — Exercise for at least 30-minutes a day, five days a week. Alternatively, aim to walk 10,000 steps per day.
- Keep a healthy diet — Eat a variety of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Cut down on processed foods as much as you can.
- Use resources available to you — There are many online, free resources to help with diabetes management and lifestyle tips. Free resources can be found at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease and the Center for Disease Control.
“Type 2 diabetes is a disease of lifestyle, and I recommend lifestyle changes for all stages of the disease — prevention, treatment and management — in addition to medication,” says Dr. Kaur. “Making these changes is the first step in managing diabetes.”
New developments for those managing diabetes
For those living with diabetes, there have been recent advancements in diabetes management and medication that can be used alongside diet and exercise. Your doctor can talk to you Dr. Kaur suggests discussing recent FDA approved developments with your doctor including continuous glucose monitors, SGLT2 inhibitors, injections to improve blood sugar and medication for chronic weight management in overweight or obese adults with type 2 diabetes.
If you are concerned you may be at risk for prediabetes or have diabetes symptoms, make an appointment with your primary care doctor. Similarly, people living with diabetes should speak with their doctor about new medications and other ways they can best manage their disease. Losing weight, eating healthy and exercising regularly are helpful tools for preventing the onset of prediabetes and managing diabetes.