Today, we look at what you can do to stop prediabetes from advancing to diabetes and prevent it from causing clogged arteries.
Many people think prediabetes is no big deal. But researchers at the American College of Cardiology found that people with prediabetes were significantly more likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke, even if they never develop diabetes.
When your blood glucose levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes, this condition is known as prediabetes.
In prediabetes, the fasting blood glucose level is between 100-125 mg/dL, whereas in diabetes it’s 126 and greater. And the A1C level is 5.7-6.4% in prediabetes, and 6.5% and greater in diabetes.
Did you know, up to 70% of individuals with prediabetes will eventually develop diabetes–even though prediabetes is fully reversible?
Statistics reveal that over 96 million U.S. adults live with prediabetes–and 90% of them don’t know they have it. That’s more than 1 in 3 adults! Or they simply brush off the symptoms as minor health problems — sometimes for months and even years!
However, diabetes is anything but minor. Early diagnosis and treatment can mean the difference between living a long, healthy life and suffering from complications.
Uncontrolled high blood sugar can cause damage to the blood vessels, nerves, heart, and kidneys.
First, let’s talk about what causes prediabetes.
Prediabetes usually occurs in people who already have insulin resistance or whose beta cells in the pancreas don’t make enough insulin to keep blood sugar in the normal range. Let’s explain what this means.
After you eat, the carbohydrates in your food are broken down into glucose, or sugar. This sugar enters your bloodstream.
Sugar then enters the body’s cells with help from insulin (a hormone produced by the pancreas) so that it can be used as energy.
Insulin also tells the liver, muscle, and fat cells to store any excess sugar as glycogen for later use.
When sugar enters our cells, it decreases the amount of sugar in our blood to a normal level. In response, the pancreas makes less insulin.
However, when your cells don’t react to insulin the way they’re supposed to, the extra sugar stays in your blood.
This condition is called insulin resistance, and it’s the underlying cause of prediabetes.
It isn’t exactly clear what causes insulin resistance. But researchers think excess weight and lack of physical activity are major factors.
Another cause of prediabetes is when beta cells in the pancreas can no longer produce enough insulin.
This happens as a result of eating a lot of sugar and carbohydrates at a high frequency. The pancreas has to work extra hard to keep releasing insulin to control blood sugar levels. Eventually, the beta cells become exhausted and can no longer pump out that much insulin. So sugar rises and stays in the blood after you eat.
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Next, not many people are aware that prediabetes can cause clogged arteries, so let’s look at how this happens.
As sugar builds up and reaches dangerous levels, it creates the perfect environment for widespread inflammation. Inflammation damages the lining of your blood vessels and creates uneven surfaces in the smooth muscle cells. This allows cholesterol to lodge in your artery walls and form plaque along with fats, calcium, and other substances.
Plaque can grow large enough to significantly reduce blood flow through an artery. But that’s not all. Plaque accumulation also makes your body release immune cells to attack the plaque, which may cause it to rupture and trigger a blood clot to form. A clot is dangerous because it may further narrow the artery or completely block it, which could lead to a heart attack or stroke.
So, how can you know if you have prediabetes? Here are 11 symptoms.
Number 11. Unexplained fatigue.
This is because glucose in the blood cannot be easily converted into energy after eating.
Number 10. Slow-healing wounds.
This is due to poor circulation in damaged blood vessels. Open wounds are called diabetic ulcers.
Number 9. Unexplained mood swings.
Too much sugar in the brain makes a person anxious, irritable, and unable to focus. As stress increases, more cortisol is released and raises sugar levels by releasing stored glucose into the bloodstream.
Number 8. Hunger, weight fluctuations.
When sugar stays in the blood, it causes your cells to burn fat and muscle for energy, and this can cause sudden weight loss. However, insulin resistance makes you hungry all the time, so you eat more. Your body stores the extra sugar as fat, which leads to weight gain. Both overweight and thin people can be prediabetic.
Number 7. Frequent urination, excessive thirst.
When there is too much sugar in the blood, your kidneys can’t re-absorb all the sugar, so it leaves your body through urine. This makes you go to the bathroom more often. As a result, your body craves more water, your mouth feels dry, and you feel thirsty all the time. And the cycle continues.
Number 6. Numbness and tingling of feet and hands.
This is because high blood sugar damages the nerves and causes them to misfire. This condition is known as neuropathy.
Number 5. Digestive issues.
Researchers have found that people with prediabetes often have higher rates of gas, bloating, feeling full quickly, nausea, heartburn, and constipation. This may be because their vagus nerve is damaged. The vagus nerve helps control how quickly the stomach empties. When it’s damaged, food stays in the stomach for too long. This is called gastroparesis. If you have unexplained digestive problems, have a doctor check for prediabetes.
Number 4. Painful joints.
People with prediabetes often have extra body weight. This can be hard on their joints, particularly in the lower body, and increase the risk of osteoarthritis.
Number 3. Skin conditions.
Some people with prediabetes experience recurring bacterial infection that starts with itchy skin. The person can’t stop scratching the itch, and then their skin turns red and dissolve. Swelling follows and it becomes a weeping sore. This is caused by naturally-present bacteria that feed on glucose and go out of control.
Other skin conditions include acanthosis nigricans–a darkened area of skin on the back of your neck, armpit, groin, or elsewhere that feels like velvet. Skin tags on the eyelids, neck, armpits, and groin are another symptom of high blood sugar.
Number 2. Blurred Vision.
When the tiny blood vessels that supply your retina are damaged by excess sugar, they can leak blood into the retina and distort vision. This condition is known as diabetic retinopathy, and it can happen in the prediabetic stage. Early symptoms of diabetic retinopathy include blurred vision, floaters, loss of central vision, and dark spots in the field of vision.
Number 1. Kidney Damage.
The kidneys can be damaged even before the onset of diabetes. In one extensive study, over one-third of people with prediabetes had signs of kidney disease. The stage of kidney disease was 3 or 4, the same as for people with diabetes.
Next, how can you reverse prediabetes?
The most important thing you can do is to reduce the amount of sugar and refined carbs in your diet. If you eat carbs and sugar, make sure you get fiber along with it. Fiber will keep your insulin and glucose levels balanced so you don’t get a spike. Some fiber-rich foods are green beans, mushrooms, artichokes, asparagus, okra, celery, lettuce, spinach, and cruciferous vegetables.
Choose anti-inflammatory foods that are medium to low on the glycemic index. Control your portion sizes.
Drink lots of water to dilute the sugar in your bloodstream and help your kidneys flush out excess sugar. It will also help reduce hunger.
Get nutrients that improve sugar control, such as chromium, magnesium, berberine, ALA (alpha-lipoic acid), apple cider vinegar, cinnamon, probiotic foods, and omega-3 fatty acids.
Exercise regularly, as this is a good way to lose weight and take the load off your pancreas. When you work out, your muscle cells can absorb glucose for energy, whether or not insulin is available. Even walking 30 minutes every day works wonders.
Get enough quality sleep. Sleep deprivation increases your hunger for high-carbohydrate foods. It also increases cortisol levels and triggers higher blood sugar.
Manage your stress levels to balance your hormones. Yoga, deep meditation, or working on a hobby you enjoy will do wonders for your body.
Get rid of excess body fat. This will reduce the risk of metabolic problems.
Lastly, who is at risk for prediabetes?
If you are aged 45 years and over, carry extra belly fat, lead a sedentary lifestyle, or have a family history diabetes, consider getting tested to know if you have prediabetes.
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As always, this video is educational and does not constitute medical advice; we are not doctors.