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Keeping Pre-Diabetes In Check

Most people have heard of diabetes, a leading cause of death in the United States. However, they may not have heard of pre-diabetes, a little known condition that affects an estimated 17 million Americans.

As The Saturday Early Show's Dr. Mallika Marshall explains, pre-diabetes is a relatively new term, and that's the reason many people have never heard of it. In the past, it has been referred to as impaired glucose tolerance. A person with the condition has blood glucose levels that are higher than normal, but not high enough to be categorized as diabetes.

Marshall says pre-diabetes is a very serious condition, one that people should not take lightly. People with pre-diabetes are at a much greater risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, also know as adult onset diabetes. People with pre-diabetes are also at a 50 percent higher risk of developing heart disease, another leading killer.

Warning signs of pre-diabetes

  • Fatigue
  • Food Cravings
  • Obesity/Weight Gain

These are all symptoms that may indicate pre-diabetes. They are also symptoms of diabetes. Marshall says not everyone is going to exhibit the symptoms. In fact, in many cases people will have no warning signs at all.

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Test to determine if you have pre-diabetes

There are two commonly used tests to determine if someone has pre-diabetes. The first is the Fasting Plasma Glucose test (FPG). The second is the Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (OGTT). In these tests, the doctor measures the blood glucose levels to see if the patient's metabolism is normal. If it's abnormal, it could mean the patient has pre-diabetes or diabetes.

Pre-diabetes risk factors

  • Family History of Diabetes
  • Gestational Diabetes
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Low "Good" Cholesterol Levels
  • Race or Ethnicity

Anyone with a family history of diabetes should definitely get tested, as should any woman who developed gestational diabetes during pregnancy, says Marshall. If you have high blood pressure or low levels of HDLs -- also known as good cholesterol -- then you also should get tested. Diabetes is also more prevalent among certain ethnic or racial groups, such as blacks, Native Americans, Hispanics and Pacific Islanders.

Having pre-diabetes does not mean you will get diabetes, it just means you are at a greater risk of developing the disease. The good news is that if you know you have the condition, there are lifestyle changes you can make that may help prevent diabetes.

Marshall provided the following steps to treat pre-diabetes:

  • Lose weight: Ten to 15 pounds can make a real difference.
  • Start exercising: If you don't exercise already, get moving. Do aerobic exercises that get your heart pumping. You can even go walking 30 minutes at a clip several times a week. (Of course, you should always check with your doctor before starting a vigorous exercise program.)
  • Stop smoking: Stopping smoking can make you feel better and reduce your risk of disease.
  • Treat existing conditions: If you have high blood pressure or high cholesterol, it is very important that you get treated.
  • Eat a healthy diet: A heart-healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables can help stave off many conditions.

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