By Michelle Carbery, Corporate Wellness Specialist, Independent Health

November is National Diabetes Month, a time when communities across the country team up to bring awareness to diabetes. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 34 million adults are currently living with type 2 diabetes in the United States, while approximately 88 million have prediabetes.

Most people who get type 2 diabetes have prediabetes first. Prediabetes is a warning sign that your blood glucose (blood sugar) is higher than normal, but not high enough to be considered diabetes. However, without intervention, many people with prediabetes could develop type 2 diabetes within five years.

What causes prediabetes?

The food you eat turns into sugar, which your body uses for energy. Normally, an organ called the pancreas makes insulin, which allows the sugar in your blood to get into your body’s cells. But when your body can’t use insulin the right way, the sugar doesn’t move into cells. It stays in your blood instead. This is called insulin resistance. The buildup of sugar in the blood causes prediabetes.

You may be at higher risk for prediabetes if you’re overweight and/or over the age of 45. Your risk also goes up if you have one or more of the following:

  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • A parent, brother or sister with diabetes

To see if you are at a higher risk for prediabetes, you can take a quick Prediabetes Risk Test. If your score is 5 or higher, you should speak with your doctor about your results.

How is prediabetes diagnosed?

There are often no signs or symptoms associated with prediabetes, which means the majority of people with this serious health condition don’t even know they have it. Only a blood test can tell if you have prediabetes. Therefore, if you haven’t had your well visit with your primary care doctor, please schedule one now so you can ask about getting a blood glucose level test.

What can you do to lower your risk?

You can lower your risk for prediabetes and prevent type 2 diabetes by making the following lifestyle changes:

  • Watch your weight. If you are overweight, losing just a small amount of weight may help. Reducing fat around your waist is particularly important.
  • Make healthy food choices. Limit the amount of unhealthy fat you eat, such as saturated fat and trans fat. Try to cut calories and limit sweets.
  • Be active. You can do moderate activity, vigorous activity, or both. Bit by bit, increase the amount you do every day. You may want to swim, bike, or do other activities. Walking is an easy way to get exercise.

Making these changes may also avoid or delay some of the serious problems that you can get when you have diabetes, such as heart attack, stroke, and heart, eye, nerve, and kidney disease.

To learn more about National Diabetes Month, visit the American Diabetes Association website.