So What, It’s Not Diabetes
the US population has aged and become more overweight
Today, more than ever, it's important to take steps to but a stop to the rise of type 2 diabetes. Diabetes causes more deaths per year than breast cancer and AIDS combined. Two out of three people with diabetes die from heart disease or stroke(9)..
This is the second article in our 3-part series looking deeper into Prediabetes, its causes, effects on the body, and what can be done about it. (Read Part 1)
In this article on Prediabetes we’ll examine:
- What the “pre” in Prediabetes means?
- Insulin resistance - more than you want to know?
- What’s actually happening in my body with Prediabetes?
- In the end, what can I do about it?
Let's begin our next look at Prediabetes by going deeper into its meaning, its impact on the body, and what can be done about.
What does the “pre” in Prediabetes means?
Don’t let the “pre” in Prediabetes fool you. The prefix “pre” means “before,” or “prior to,” (as in preclude; prevent). Prediabetes is telling you what is going on inside your body before full-blown type 2 diabetes takes complete hold.
Consequently, a diagnosis of Prediabetes should not be dismissed or taken lightly. Prediabetes is a serious condition that can lead to devastating health consequences… and increasing health costs.
If you’ve been diagnosed, I hope you’ll see it as a wake-up call or second chance because it’s telling you that your body has been having problems for some time—and it will only get worse.
Kim Larson, registered dietitian nutritionist, defines Prediabetes as "a metabolic disease that develops gradually over years when someone has insulin resistance, or a lack of insulin production, or both." (4).”
Let's Go Deeper
Insulin and Insulin Resistance
Prediabetes and type 2 diabetes are diseases of too much insulin, not too little. It is insulin that is the real driver of the problems with these two diseases.
When you eat a diet full of empty calories and an abundance of quickly absorbed sugars - think liquid calories like sodas, juices, sports drinks, or vitamin or flavored waters and refined carbohydrates like bread, pasta, rice, and potatoes - your cells slowly become resistant or numb to the effects of insulin. You need more and more of it to keep your blood sugar levels balanced.
This is known as insulin resistance.
What is the purpose of insulin?
“Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas that allows your body to use sugar (glucose) from carbohydrates in the food you eat for energy or to store glucose for future use. Insulin helps keep your blood sugar level from getting too high (hyperglycemia) or too low (hypoglycemia)” (2).
The cells in your body need sugar or glucose for energy. However, glucose cannot move directly into your cells - it needs help. Eating causes your blood sugar level to rise. When this happen, it signals specialized cells in your pancreas to release insulin into your bloodstream. Insulin then attaches to your cells and signals them to absorb the glucose in the bloodstream (see image below). Insulin can be thought of as a “key,” which unlocks the cell to allow glucose to enter the cell and be used for energy (see image below).
If you have more glucose in your bloodstream than the body can make use of in the moment, insulin helps store the glucose in your liver. When your blood sugar level is low or if you need more glucose, such as in between meals or during physical activity, your liver can make it available. Therefore, insulin works to balance your blood sugar level to keep it in a normal range. As blood sugar levels rise, the pancreas releases more insulin to deal with the increased glucose in your system.
If your body does not produce enough insulin or if your cells are resistant to insulin, you may develop hyperglycemia (high blood sugar). Hyperglycemia can cause long-term complications if the blood sugar levels stay elevated for long periods of time. This is what is happening in both prediabetes and type 2 diabetes.
Insulin - The Dark Side
As important as Insulin is, it also has a darker side. Insulin is a fat storage hormone. High levels of insulin causes your body gain weight. This extra weight is primarily added around the belly contributing to an apple-shape over time.
Insulin also drives more inflammation, oxidative stress, and other effects including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, low HDL, high triglycerides, poor sex drive, infertility, and increased risk of cancer, Alzheimer’s and depression.
So while insulin is necessary for cell metabolism, as with much in life, too much of a good thing is not a good thing.
As I pointed out in part 1 of this series, “Prediabetes is diabetes.” Prediabetes is considered a high-risk state—a ‘pre-disease’ if you will. We should not take lightly a diagnosis of prediabetes. It’s a dangerous condition and can have devastating health consequences.
Keep in mind, however, a diagnosis of Prediabetes doesn’t mean you will eventually develop type 2 diabetes, but it does substantially increase your chances. The good news is that you can decrease your risk if you will make changes to improve your health.
We’ll talk more about this in part 3 in of this series. But for now, let’s look at what’s happening within your body when you have Prediabetes.
What’s happening in my body?
The damage is already being done
Mark Hyman (3) wrote, “that pre-diabetes is not “pre” anything. It is a deadly disease driving our biggest killers - heart attacks, strokes, cancer, dementia, and more.”
Unfortunately, many believe Prediabetes isn’t a problem until it becomes full-blown diabetes. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Prediabetes is really an early stage of diabetes, and as such, carries with it nearly all the risks and complications of full type 2 diabetes. The reality is, Prediabetes can kill you—through things like heart attacks, strokes, or cancer—long before you ever progress to diabetes.
People with Prediabetes may already have damage to organs, such as eyes, kidneys, blood vessels and the heart, that are usually considered complications of diabetes. (7)
Here’s a list of some complications that may already be clear in Prediabetes:
High blood pressure
High blood pressure and Prediabetes together may do more harm to the body than either one alone. When researchers looked at prediabetes paired with high blood pressure, they found a significant increase in coronary artery disease severity and cardiovascular events. (1)
Heart and Blood Vessel damage
Prediabetes can increase your risk of developing cardiovascular disease, including atherosclerosis, stroke, peripheral artery disease, and kidney disease. The burden of cardiovascular risk is the same in Prediabetes and type 2 diabetes (5).
Over time, prolonged high blood sugar levels can damage nerves, a condition called diabetic neuropathy. This can lead to numbness in the fingers, hands, toes, and feet or tingling, burning or shooting pains that usually begin at the fingers or toes and spreads upwards. Symptoms of this nerve damage can also include vomiting, diarrhea, or constipation, problems with sexual function, dizziness, and other symptoms.
Chronic kidney disease, a serious complication of type 2 diabetes, is also a problem in Prediabetes. The kidneys are important to filter blood. Over time, the increased levels of sugar in the blood can damage them so they no longer work effectively, requiring either dialysis or a transplant.
Damage to the blood vessels in the eye from increased levels of insulin can eventually lead to blindness and may increase the risk of cataracts and glaucoma.
Dementia and Cognitive Impairment
Those with Prediabetes have a dramatically increased risk of pre-dementia or mild cognitive impairment. You can think of it as an early form of Alzheimer’s.
Sleep-disordered breathing has also been associated with Prediabetes.
Prediabetes can cause impotence in men and infertility in women.
In the end, what can I do about it?
Heed the wake-up call
There’s still time to take action.
You can reverse Prediabetes and help prevent type 2 diabetes. Making changes now can reverse the damage that has been done to your body. But don’t wait. The sooner you begin, the sooner your health will return to a more normal state.
Discover what's driving you
To make lasting change successfully, it’s important to know why YOU want to change. Making a change because your spouse/partner wants you to, or because the doctor told you to seldom works for the long term.
In order for change to be permanent, you need to understand why you want to change. What is driving you to embark on, and stay on, the journey of change? Simon Sinek refers to this in his book as finding your Why–the purpose, cause or belief that energizes your desired outcome (6).
Margie Warrell wrote that, "a clear sense of purpose enables you to focus your efforts on what matters most, compelling you to take risks and push forward regardless of the odds or obstacles." (8)
No one can make the changes you need to make for yourself. And to do that, it’s vital you decide why change is important to you.
Everyone says they want to live a long and healthy life, but why do you?
Perhaps you want to see your children graduate or get married. Or maybe you want to hold your grandchild in your arms, or even see him or her graduate or get married. Maybe you want to spend your retirement traveling the world. Or maybe, like me, you just want to live actively and healthfully to 110.
Whatever the reason for making the change now to a healthy, disease free life, it must come from you. It must be your decision. Your WHY.
Make some changes
Prediabetes: Treat it as an opportunity for a lifestyle reset. Here are some suggestions:
- Start today eating a healthy diet.
- Find an activity you enjoy that you can do every day.
- Get your family and friends involved in your new lifestyle.
- Reduce or better manage your stress.
- Get 6-8 hours of sleep each day.
I know you’ve heard all this before… perhaps many times before. So maybe it’s true. Maybe it’s time to pay attention to what you’re being told.
It’s not all bad news
The changes listed above are simple. They may not be easy, but they are simple.
By now I'm sure you realize that diabetes is a serious disease. I also hope you see the diagnosis of Prediabetes as a wake up call to take control of your life and your health. A few simple lifestyle changes can help you do that. With a strong reason to change and perhaps some help, you can drastically improve your chances of living a long and healthy life. There's still time, but you need to start now!
Over to You
I hope that this post has helped you to understand that Prediabetes is a real thing with real implications and serious consequences. I also hope that these articles inspire you to take action now to learn more if you have been diagnosed or to be tested to see if you are one of the 84 million undiagnosed people.
As always, I'd love to know what you think of the information presented here. Let me know by joining the conversation below or in our private Facebook group, Prediabetes and Beyond.
In the final article in this 3-part series, we’ll focus in much greater detail on what you can do about Prediabetes and ways to prevent type 2 diabetes.
1 - American Heart Association. (2018, June 18). Complications to Avoid with Pre-diabetes [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/More/Diabetes/AboutDiabetes/Complications-to-Avoid-with-Pre-diabetes_UCM_461506_Article.jsp
2 - Hess-Fischl, A. (2017, April). What is insulin? Retrieved June, 2018, from https://www.endocrineweb.com/conditions/type-1-diabetes/what-insulin
3 - Hyman, M. (2015). The blood sugar solution 10-day detox diet cookbook: More than 150 recipes to help you lose weight and stay healthy for life(First edition.). New York: Little, Brown and Company.
4 - Larson, K. (2018, June 02). Prediabetes: Treat it as an alarm for a lifestyle reset. Retrieved June/July, 2018, from https://www.heraldnet.com/life/prediabetes-treat-it-as-an-alarm-for-a-lifestyle-reset/
5 - Liu, H., Cao, Y., Li, S., Guo, Y., Zhu, C., Wu, N., . . . Li, J. (2018). Impacts of prediabetes mellitus alone or plus hypertension on the coronary severity and cardiovascular outcomes novelty and significance. Hypertension,71(6), 1039-1046. doi:10.1161/hypertensionaha.118.11063
6 - Sinek, S. (2009). Start with why: How great leaders inspire everyone to take action. New York, N.Y.: Portfolio.
7 - Tabák, A. G., Herder, C., Rathmann, W., Brunner, E. J., & Kivimäki, M. (2012). Prediabetes: A high-risk state for developing diabetes. Lancet,379(9833), 2279–2290. http://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(12)60283-9
8 - Warrell, M. (2014, April 17). Do you know your "Why?" 4 questions to find your purpose. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/margiewarrell/2013/10/30/know-your-why-4-questions-to-tap-the-power-of-purpose/#24c8e98873ad
9 - Stop Diabetes: Myths and Facts. (2018). Retrieved from http://www.stopdiabetes.com/get-the-facts/myths-and-facts.html
still have questions?
A diagnosis of Prediabetes can be scary and confusing.
But it doesn't have to be!
Get the answers you seek to the most frequently asked questions about Prediabetes . . .
The 6 Questions You Should Ask When Diagnosed With Prediabetes
This report will help you:
and much more.