What is prediabetes?

Prediabetes means that your blood sugar level is higher than it should be, however, it is not high enough to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes

How common is prediabetes?

Prediabetes is on the rise across the country. In Rhode Island, there is an unusually high incidence, about 36 percent, or 294,000 individuals. That means about one in every three Rhode Islanders has prediabetes. That is incredible. There could also be others out there we don’t know about, so the number could be even higher. 

Yet among those individuals with prediabetes, only about 12 percent reported being told by a health professional that they have this condition. That is why education on prediabetes and the dangers of diabetes are so important.

Who is at risk for prediabetes?

Risk factors include obesity, family history, being physically inactive, having a personal history of gestational diabetes, and polycystic ovarian syndrome. Race and ethnicity also play a role. African-, Latin- and some Asian-Americans are at risk as well as Native Americans and Pacific Islanders.

Why is prediabetes dangerous?

Prediabetes is a warning sign that lifestyle changes are needed. Without those changes, prediabetes is likely to progress to type 2 diabetes sooner than it would otherwise.

What is the impact of diabetes on a person’s health?

Diabetes is a dangerous health condition. When a patient is diagnosed with diabetes, they are at high risk for heart disease. Diabetes also increases a patient’s risk for serious or life-threatening conditions such as:

What are the signs of prediabetes and diabetes?

Prediabetes does not usually have any signs or symptoms. It is diagnosed through blood tests. As prediabetes progresses to type 2 diabetes, symptoms associated with diabetes may develop, including:

How can you prevent the onset of diabetes?

It’s important for patients to understand that diabetes puts them at risk for heart attacks, and strokes -- the most serious and worrisome complications from diabetes. Patients with diabetes require more intense primary care and must be seen on a regular basis. Many patients will ultimately require specialty care. 

To minimize your chances of developing full blown diabetes, lifestyle changes are needed. Regular exercise should include at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise five days a week. Also, moving toward a more plant-based diet and less saturated fat intake are key nutrition goals for reducing your risk for diabetes. Evidence supports adhering to a Mediterranean Diet to delay the onset of diabetes.

If you’ve been diagnosed with prediabetes, please commit to increasing your activity and making better choices when it comes to your nutrition. Those small changes to your lifestyle can help you prevent the dangers that come with diabetes. 

Dino A. Messina, MD, PhD, FACP

Dr. Dino A. Messina is a primary care physician and director for the Center for Primary Care at Rhode Island Hospital. Dr. Messina’s research interests include preservation of the doctor-patient relationship and improving healthcare outcomes for vulnerable populations.