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My doctor says I have prediabetes. Does that mean I have diabetes?

August 27, 2019

“Prediabetes” refers to blood sugar levels that are higher than normal. This is a warning sign that you are at risk of getting diabetes, which is a disease where your body cannot make enough insulin, or cannot use the insulin the right way. Insulin is a hormone that helps control sugar levels in your blood.

Our bodies convert the food we eat into simple sugar, which is used to fuel the cells in our body. Normally, our insulin allows the sugar in the blood to get into our cells, but when you don’t have enough insulin or your body cannot use the insulin the right way, the sugar simply stays in the blood. The buildup of sugar in the blood is what causes prediabetes, and potentially, diabetes.

The chances of developing prediabetes increases with being overweight, not being physically active, and having a family history of diabetes. People who are 40 years and over are also at higher risk. If you want to know whether other family members are at risk, a simple online test provided by Diabetes Canada is a good tool to find out their risk score (www.diabetestest.ca). Anyone who is 40 years and older or has a high risk score should be screened by a doctor every three years.

Prediabetes can occur without you knowing because most people don’t have any symptoms. So it’s important to be aware of the signs of diabetes to monitor your progression. These signs include:

  • Unusual thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Frequent hunger
  • Weight change (gain or loss)
  • Extreme fatigue or lack of energy
  • Blurred vision

While almost six million Canadians have prediabetes, not everyone with prediabetes will develop diabetes, but many people will. So by taking the right steps in managing your blood sugar, you can delay or prevent the onset of diabetes (or prediabetes). You can do this by making some lifestyle changes:

  • Follow a healthy diet – Canada’s food guide can help (https://food-guide.canada.ca/en/)
  • Exercise regularly – start slowly and increase to 150 minutes per week
  • Lose weight – just five to 10 percent of your total weight can make a difference

And if lifestyle changes are not enough to normalize blood sugar levels, your doctor might recommend that you use oral medications.