In every issue of WebMD the Magazine, we ask our experts to answer readers' questions about a wide range of topics. In our January-February 2011 issue, we asked WebMD's diabetes expert, Michael Dansinger, MD, to answer a question about the link between prediabetes and diabetes.
Q: At my last checkup, my doctor told me I have prediabetes. Does that mean I'll ultimately develop diabetes?
Does the light touch of a bed sheet make your feet burn? Does your heart sometimes race when you’re resting? Do you have problems with sexual arousal?
As different as these symptoms are, they can all have the same cause: diabetic nerve damage, also known as diabetic neuropathy. About half of people with diabetes develop nerve damage. The two most common forms are:
peripheral neuropathy, which affects the nerves that serve the farthest reaches of the body, such as the legs and hands;
A: Almost everyone who develops type 2 diabetes develops prediabetes first. But not everyone who has prediabetes -- defined as having levels of glucose (a type of sugar in the blood) that are higher than normal but not yet diabetic -- ends up with diabetes. In fact, changing your lifestyle can significantly delay or even prevent type 2 diabetes.
Those changes can include losing a moderate amount of weight (5% to 10% of your body weight -- about 8 to 16 pounds for a 160-pound woman), getting regular exercise (about 30 minutes daily), and eating healthy meals. There are lots of good eating plans for delaying or preventing diabetes -- most emphasize a variety of vegetables, fruits, fish, lean chicken, beans, low-fat dairy, egg whites, soy, and whole grains.
Quitting smoking, drinking alcohol only moderately (if you drink already), and reducing stress all help keep your blood glucose levels under control.
You should also know that prediabetes puts you at risk for other conditions, such as heart disease and stroke. In fact, prediabetes is now considered one of America's most serious health problems (one in four adults has it). Knowing how to keep it in check can prevent diabetes from developing in the future.
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Your level is currently
If the level is below 70 and you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.
People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.
Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.
However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.
Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.
Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.
One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.
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