Imagine you’re taking a leisurely afternoon drive when you see a sign that says “Cliff Ahead.” Instead of taking the road that leads away from the gorge, you turn and speed directly for the edge of the cliff, in full knowledge of what will happen if you keep going. This seems preposterous, but people do this with their health every day.
You’ve likely seen this kind of warning sign if your doctor has ever talked to you about prediabetes. And if you haven’t done anything about it, then your health may be heading for the precipice. But good news, there’s still time to avoid the crisis.
Prediabetes is a serious condition in which blood glucose levels are elevated above normal but not yet to the level of diabetes. Almost 1.3 million people in Ohio have diabetes with an additional 3 million diagnosed with prediabetes. If no actions are taken to combat prediabetes, it’s likely to progress to type 2 diabetes within 10 years.
Diabetes is a very serious condition. It is the number one cause of kidney failure, lower-limb amputations, and adult-onset blindness. It is also the seventh leading cause of death for American adults. Which means prediabetes is not just a term your doctor says lightly in passing during an examination.
It is likely your physician has been guiding you over the years — lose weight, lower your cholesterol, change your diet — but we all tend to put off doing the things we know are important to maintain our health. Well, now is the time to take control and turn away from the road to prediabetes.
How do I get tested for prediabetes?
One in three Americans have prediabetes, and of those, 80% don’t know it. Testing is critical to determine your risk for prediabetes. The Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP) offers free A1C testing (just a little finger prick required) at Grace Clinic and at various community locations and events around Delaware County. Your primary care physician can also order this test.
What do I do if I’m diagnosed with prediabetes?
The first step is always to educate yourself about your condition. Mt. Carmel Lewis Center offers free programs on healthy eating and other ways to combat prediabetes. Grace Clinic also can schedule a specialty appointment with a nutritionist to get you started on your journey to better health.
Lessening carbs and sugars in your diet will help lower your A1C. Try giving up just one thing and replacing it with a healthy habit, such as trading out soda for water instead. Even losing 10-15 pounds will significantly lower your risk for diabetes. In addition, increase how active you are with mild forms of exercise such as walking or swimming. If you find something you enjoy, you’ll be more likely to stick with it. Join our weekly Walk with a Doc program every Tuesday if you need a little support and advice to adhere to a walking program.
Prediabetes does not have to lead diabetes. You can make changes now that will lead to lasting health benefits for years to come. Be sure to heed that warning sign now!
Stay tuned to learn more in this four-part series in honor of November, which is National Diabetes Month.
Dr. Jane Graebner is founder of the Foot and Ankle Wellness Center in Delaware. She is a practicing podiatrist of 40 years and president of the Delaware County Diabetes Association.