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Diabetes (Part 2): Do You Have Prediabetes?

Diabetes is a disease where blood sugar levels are too high. In "Diabetes (Part 1), we discussed how serious diabetes is. More than 30 million people of all ages--nearly 10 percent of the U.S. population--had diabetes in 2015. More than 25 percent of adults aged 65 years have diabetes.

Diabetes is associated with many serious health complications. It increases your chances to develop heart disease, blindness, nerve pain, kidney failure, and amputations, especially of lower extremities such as toes or an entire foot (and that's only a partial list). Diabetes is also a killer and the seventh leading cause of death in the United States.

Before you are diagnosed with diabetes, however, you likely have "prediabetes". If you have a blood sugar level higher than normal, but not high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes, you have prediabetes. The potential is there you will develop type 2 diabetes (again see part 1) and all the serious health problems associated with diabetes.

While many people have heard of diabetes, fewer are aware of prediabetes. According to the American Diabetes Association, 86 million Americans (more than 1 in 3) have prediabetes.

Unfortunately the numbers get worse; nearly 90 percent of people with prediabetes don't know they have it and aren't aware of the long-term health risks. Those health risks included a higher risk for heart attack, stroke, blindness, and amputation, especially of toes or feet.

Estimates are that 15 to 30 percent of people with prediabetes will develop type 2 diabetes within 5 years.

You probably already know this is going; there is a sunny spot among all the dark prediabetes clouds. Prediabetes often can be reversed through losing weight, changing your diet and increasing your levels of physical activity.

Working with your physician is important. He or she can more accurately provide guidance of steps to take to avoid prediabetes. Usually, a diagnosis of prediabetes is a stimulus to start making lifestyle changes; often, once people are aware of their condition, they are far more motivated to start making necessary changes.

There is something else you should know here. Some people have higher risk factors for prediabetes other than high blood suger. These prediabetes risk factors include being older than 45; being overweight or obese; having a family history of diabetes; and some racial or ethnic heritages. Those include being African American, Hispanic or Latino, Native American, Asian American, or Pacific Islander.

And lack of physically activity (less than three times a week) increases the risk for everyone for prediabetes. Discuss this with your physician.

Once again, let's revisit the Performance Triad--sleep, activity, and nutrition.

Sleep is vital for health, performance, and well-being. Proper sleep practices that promote optimal sleep duration and quality are important for all adults.

Physical fitness and activity are crucial for the entire Army family--spouses, children, and retirees--to manage your weight and ensure a high level of good health.

Activity more than three times a week for more than twenty minutes each time is very important. Brisk walking is a very good activity for many members of your family.

While proper sleep habits and activity are factors in helping to avoid diabetes, good nutrition plays the most important role to avoid diabetes. A well-balanced and nutritious diet is the foundation of maintaining peak performance and good health.

Maintaining healthy eating habits will help improve your quality of life as you age, reduce your risk of heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis, and other debilitating diseases, and protect your immune system. And it can help avoid prediabetes.

There comes a time when you face decisions about your health and how you stay healthy. Keep weight down, eat reasonably with emphasis on fruits and vegetables.

To assist with guiding Army family members toward a healthier diet, many Army MTFs have a "Move to Health" program that provides comprehensive health assessments and counseling. Medical health coaches and registered dietitians can assist with individual dietary analyses. Other assistance with starting activity programs is available. You should ask at your local MTF the next time you are there.

Prediabetes and its mean older brother diabetes put you on the road to declining health. If you don't exercise on a regular basis, get out today and walk for 30 minutes. Make sure you get plenty of green vegetables in your diet. Maintain good sleep habits.

Prediabetes can be avoided. Take a step in the right direction for your health.

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