8 Risk Factors for Prediabetes


According to Diabetes Australia, two million Australians are living with pre-diabetes. If nothing is done, one in three of these people will likely develop type 2 diabetes. But how can you know if you’re at risk?

What are the signs you’re pre-diabetic?

There are no signs you’re pre-diabetic. However, there are risk factors to look out for. Not everyone who is at risk will have pre-diabetes, and not everyone who has pre-diabetes will exhibit the risk factors.

But things aren’t all doom and gloom. With exercise and good nutrition, up to 58% of pre-diabetics can prevent type 2 diabetes. Before we discuss the risk factors for pre-diabetes, let’s take a look at what it means to be pre-diabetic.

What is “pre-diabetes”?

Pre-diabetes is when your blood glucose levels are higher than they should be, but not quite high enough to officially be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes. There are two types of pre-diabetes: impaired glucose tolerance (IGT), and impaired fasting glucose (IFG).

In IGT, your blood glucose levels are simply higher than normal. With IFG, your blood glucose levels are high when fasting, but still not high enough to qualify as diabetes. People can have one or both pre-diabetes conditions.

Pre-diabetes can be identified through a glucose test administered by a medical professional.

What is Type 2 Diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes occurs when your body begins to resist the normal effects of insulin. The pancreas may be unable to produce an adequate amount of insulin. The majority of diabetes is type 2 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes is not present at birth, but develops over an extended period of time. The earlier it is identified, the more manageable it tends to be. Complications from type 2 diabetes can be very serious, potentially leading to loss of sight or limb amputation.

8 Risk Factors for Pre-Diabetes

Here are eight common risk factors for pre-diabetes. However, it’s important to remember that someone with pre-diabetes may display one risk factor, several, or none.

1. Unhealthy weight

Men and women who are overweight may be at a higher risk of pre-diabetes, in particular if they carry their weight in the middle. Diabetes Australia suggests that men with a waistline of more than 94cm or, for women, more than 80cm, show a risk factor for pre-diabetes.

2. Lack of exercise

If you live an inactive lifestyle, you’ve got a risk factor for pre-diabetes. As we rely more and more on technology, it’s no secret that we’re all moving less. Assess your daily activity level: if you’re not getting your 10,000 steps and you rarely exercise, you could be putting yourself at risk.

3. Family history

If you have a family history of type 2 diabetes, you could be at risk for both pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes. Check if anyone else in your family has developed type 2 diabetes.

4. High blood pressure

High blood pressure is also a risk factor for pre-diabetes. Healthdirect reports that 30% of Australians over age 18 have high blood pressure, which occurs if your reading is above 140/90 mm/Hg. This means that you have high blood pressure if your top number is above 140, the bottom number is above 90, or both.

5. Cholesterol & Triglycerides

Cholesterol and triglycerides are naturally produced fatty substances that are carried in your bloodstream, but it can also be increased by eating certain foods that are high in cholesterol. Although there are no signs you’re pre-diabetic, having high triglycerides and high cholesterol are risk factors.

6. Polycystic ovary syndrome

Polycystic ovary syndrome is related to hormones, and can cause infertility. 50 to 70% of women with polycystic ovary syndrome have insulin resistance, which in itself is a risk factor for pre-diabetes. This means that women with the condition are at a greater risk for developing pre-diabetes.

7. Gestational Diabetes or Large Babies

If you are a woman who had gestational diabetes while pregnant, you have a risk factor for pre-diabetes. In the same vein, if you gave birth to a baby who weighed more than 4.5kgs, you also show a risk factor for pre-diabetes.

8. Ethnic background

Some ethnic backgrounds have a higher risk factor for pre-diabetes than others. These include Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander, Pacific Islander, Southeast Asian, Middle Eastern, and Indian backgrounds. Being from one of these backgrounds alone is not one of the signs you’re pre-diabetic; it only indicates a potential risk factor.

I have one or more pre-diabetes risk factors; what now?

If you’ve got a risk factor for pre-diabetes and are concerned, talk to your doctor. He or she may prescribe a glucose test to determine whether or not you are pre-diabetic.

If you are pre-diabetic, that doesn’t mean you are destined to have type 2 diabetes. Review your diet and physical activity level with your doctor and make any suggested changes.

Exercise—even just walking 30 minutes a day—can help your body become more efficient in its use of insulin. Changing your nutrition can also help you lose weight and lower cholesterol, which can reduce your risk of pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes.

Whether or not you are diagnosed with pre-diabetes, it doesn’t hurt to adopt a healthier lifestyle, but remember to consult your doctor before making any major changes.

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