Prediabetes and diabetes: On the rise

A significant, worrisome rise in diabetes cases among the younger population in the United States has prompted a change to the official screening recommendation to become more inclusive and combat the disease.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, observing a 29 percent jump in diabetes-related deaths among 25- to 44-year-olds, recommends diabetes screening begin at age 35, five years younger than the previous recommendation and a sign that the illness is impacting that age group significantly more than it had in the past.

With the rise in diabetes cases, it’s evident that a large percentage of the population is prediabetic (or was so before progressing to diabetes), a precursor to diabetes.

In fact, one in three Americans is prediabetic, which occurs when blood sugar levels are higher than normal (an A1C of 5.7 to 6.4), but still below the level indicating type 2 diabetes (an A1C of 6.5 and above). A normal A1C is below 5.7.

Prediabetes does not mean that one is guaranteed to develop type 2 diabetes, however. The risk is significantly increased, but there is still time that impactful lifestyle habits can affect positive change, and a prediabetic can avoid the chronic disease, along with its associated increase in risk for other, potentially more dangerous conditions.

Type 2 diabetes complications:

  • Neuropathy
  • Skin complications
  • Kidney disease
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke

Taking action

Simple blood tests can screen for both prediabetes and diabetes, recommended for those who fit the updated guidelines and especially those who live with risk factors.

Prediabetes risk factors

  • Overweight
  • Family member with type 2 diabetes
  • Physical activity less than three times per week
  • History of gestational diabetes during pregnancy
  • History of polycystic ovary syndrome
  • Once dedicated to a healthier lifestyle, prediabetics have a 58 percent chance of lowering their risk for developing type 2 diabetes

Lifestyle changes

  • Losing weight/increasing exercise
  • Eating more fiber
  • Cutting sugars
  • Maintaining a healthy diet
  • Avoiding snacking throughout the day
  • Avoiding smoking and alcohol
  • Avoiding simple carbs
  • Staying hydrated
  • Avoiding stress and getting enough sleep