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February 11, 2014

How to tell if you have prediabetes

NORMAN — Dear Savvy Senior: My 62-year-old sister was recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and was surprised when the doctor told her that she’s probably had it or prediabetes for many years. My question is what determines prediabetes and how can you know if you have it?

— Surprised Senior

Dear Surprised,

Underlying today’s growing epidemic of type 2 diabetes is a much larger epidemic called prediabetes, which is when blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be called diabetes.

The National Institutes of Health estimates that as many as 79 million Americans today have prediabetes. Left untreated, it almost always turns into type 2 diabetes within 10 years.

And, if you have prediabetes, the long-term damage it can cause — especially to your heart and circulatory system — may already be starting.

But the good news is that prediabetes doesn’t mean that you’re destined for full-blown diabetes.

Prediabetes can actually be reversed, and diabetes prevented, by making some simple lifestyle changes like losing weight, exercising, eating a healthy diet and cutting back on carbohydrates. Or, if you need more help, oral medications also may be an option.

Get checked? Because prediabetes typically causes no outward symptoms, most people that have it don’t realize it. The only way to know for sure is to get a blood test.

Everyone age 45 years or older should consider getting tested for prediabetes, especially if you are overweight with a body mass index (BMI) above 25. See cdc.gov/bmi to calculate your BMI.

If you are younger than 45 but are overweight, or have high blood pressure, a family history of diabetes or belong to an ethnic group (Latino, Asian, African or Native American) at high risk for diabetes, you too should get checked.

To help you determine your risk, the American Diabetes Association has a online quiz at diabetes.org/

are-you-at-risk.

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