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Got pre-diabetes?

If your doctor has told you that you have pre-diabetes, consider it as glass-half-full news instead of all-bad news. It’s not the type of diagnosis that anyone welcomes, but you should greet it as a chance to improve your lifestyle—and prevent diabetes.

What is pre-diabetes, anyway?

Pre-diabetes occurs when your blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough for diabetes. It’s a warning that if you don’t start watching what you eat and exercising regularly, you’re likely to develop diabetes. You’ve also put yourself at an increased risk for heart disease and stroke.

What causes pre-diabetes?

When you eat, food is broken down into glucose, the body’s main source of energy. Your body can’t use the glucose without the help of insulin, which is produced by the pancreas. When the pancreas doesn’t make enough insulin or your body is unable to use what’s available, glucose builds up in the blood. Over time, high levels of blood glucose can damage your kidneys, eyes and other vital organs. The risk factors for pre-diabetes include:

  • extra weight around the waist
  • a family history of insulin resistance
  • lack of exercise

Usually, pre-diabetes has no symptoms, so you may have it for years without knowing. With more serious cases of insulin resistance, however, you may notice dark patches of skin or a dark ring around your neck. Some people also get dark patches on the elbows, knees, knuckles and armpits. If you haven’t been tested for pre-diabetes, do it now—especially if you’re overweight. If you find that you’re in the normal range, get checked again every three years. If you’re diagnosed with pre-diabetes, the American Diabetes Association recommends testing for type 2 diabetes every year or two.

To lower your risk of developing this dangerous condition, follow a low-fat, low-calorie diet and simply ride a bike, go for a brisk walk or do some other type of cardiovascular activity for just 30 minutes a day, five days a week. In one recent study of people with pre-diabetes, those who lost 5 percent to 10 percent of their body weight (that’s just 10 to 20 pounds for a 200-pound person) and worked out at least five days a week reduced their risk of developing diabetes by 58 percent.