Prediabetes does not necessarily lead to diabetes

Being diagnosed with ‘prediabetes’ does not mean you are just one step away from developing type 2 diabetes. While having prediabetes can lead to diabetes in some people, it does not do so in the majority of cases, say medical experts.

The confusion among many people probably comes from the ‘Pre’  in prediabetes. Pre, which means that it is a precursor, so there is the assumption that the condition will lead to diabetes.

According to researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, people who have prediabetes are much more likely to return to normal blood sugar levels than to develop diabetes. For their study, the researchers tested 918 participants in the Swedish National Study on Aging and Care.

All participants, who were ages 60 and older, had been diagnosed with prediabetes, meaning their blood sugar was between 100 and 125 milligrams per deciliter. (Blood sugar under 100 is considered normal, or ‘normoglycemia’, while blood sugar over 125 is considered diabetic.)

Researchers tracked the study group for 12 years and found that while 13 percent of the participants developed diabetes during the study period, 22 percent reverted to normoglycemia.

The study found that having lower systolic blood pressure, no heart disease, and manageable weight was associated with reverting to normal blood sugar levels. This suggests that there are possible strategies for achieving normoglycemia in older adults with prediabetes.

Unfortunately, more than 90 percent of people who have prediabetes are not aware of it and this makes taking early precautions very difficult. Prediabetes invariably occurs at a young age, when people tend to be in the prime of health and pay less attention to their health.

The symptoms of prediabetes are the same as for type 2 diabetes: excessive thirst and hunger, frequent urination, fatigue, dry mouth, and weight loss. The condition can be diagnosed via a glucose blood test that requires people to fast before being tested. Testing for levels of hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c), which binds to glucose in the blood, is another way to check for prediabetes and diabetes. It does not require fasting.

Once patients are diagnosed with prediabetes, we can apply strategies to mitigate against progress to diabetes. These strategies include counseling patients to adopt a healthy diet, being mindful about consuming processed sugar, and losing weight.

Some of the steps you can take if you are prediabetic include:

Ensuring a diet high in fiber and rich in whole grains and vegetables
Limiting sugar intake as much as possible
Opting for foods with a lower glycemic index (GI) of 55 or less.
Reducing intake of carbohydrates — foods such as bread and pasta
Cutting out processed foods

However, the researchers warn that people diagnosed with prediabetes cannot be complacent even if they are among the 22 percent who successfully revert to normoglycemia. Do not think that prediabetes reversal is a cure; remember, it needs to be maintained.