Getting diagnosed with prediabetes is a serious wake-up call. Without intervention, prediabetes often leads to type 2 diabetes, which puts you at increased risk for heart disease, stroke, blindness, kidney failure and other serious health problems.

“The good news is that there are ways to reverse this condition,” said family medical physician Mikki Hand, M.D. of Family Medical Associates during a free online health lecture. “In fact, I’ve done it myself," said Dr. Hand. "You absolutely can reverse prediabetes.”

What is Prediabetes and What it Means
Prediabetes occurs when your blood sugar level is higher than it should be. The level, however, is not high enough to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes.

The condition is extremely common. According to the CDC, approximately 88 million American adults — one-in-three — have prediabetes. Of those with prediabetes, more than 84 percent don’t know they have it.

Dr. Hand warned, “Without lifestyle changes, prediabetes is likely to progress to type 2 diabetes. In fact, almost three quarters of people with prediabetes will develop diabetes, if left untreated. Studies indicate that one in three will develop full-blown diabetes in four years."

Those with type 2 diabetes have an increased risk of:

  • heart disease
  • stroke
  • blindness
  • kidney failure
  • nerve damage
  • loss of toes, feet and/or legs

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Watch a recording of the lecture on "How to Stop Prediabetes From Becoming Diabetes"

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Diagnosis of Prediabetes: Hemoglobin A1C
According to Dr. Hand, prediabetes and diabetes are diagnosed using tests that measure blood sugar levels. She added, “Of the three types of tests — fasting blood sugar, random plasma glucose (RPG) and A1C — the A1C test provides the greatest insight.”

The A1C is a blood test that reflects one’s average blood sugar level over the last two to three months. It measures what percentage of a person’s hemoglobin (a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen) is coated with sugar. The higher your A1C level, the poorer your blood sugar control, and the higher your risk of diabetes complications. A range of 5.7 to 6.4 percent is an indicator of prediabetes. The normal range is less than 5.7 percent.

When Should You be Tested?
Dr. Hand explained that you are at a higher risk for prediabetes and type 2 diabetes if you have:

  • high blood pressure
  • existing cardiovascular disease
  • low HDL (good) cholesterol
  • high triglycerides
  • an issue with being overweight
  • a first parent or sibling with type 2 diabetes
  • had a baby weighing more than nine pounds or had gestational diabetes
  • a history of polycystic ovary syndrome
  • and/or if you smoke cigarettes
  • are inactive (physically active fewer than three times each week)
  • are African American, Hispanic/Latino, Native American, Asian American or Pacific Islander

You should be tested if you are:

  • 45+ years, overweight and have a BMI of 25+. (If you are 45+ years and not overweight, ask your doctor if you should be tested.)
  • Younger than 45, overweight and at an increased risk for diabetes
  • Inactive

Steps You Can Take
According to Dr. Hand, steps you can take to reverse prediabetes or stop it from becoming diabetes include:

  • Weight loss (healthy diet)—Reducing calories by 500 per day can make a huge impact on your ability to lose weight. “This is equivalent to just two cans of soda,” she said. “This reduction should translate into one pound of weight lost each week.” There are many strategies available to help you create a healthy diet such as the Mediterranean diet.
  • Exercise (30 minutes per day, five days per week)— “Parking farther away, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, doing yardwork. These all count toward your 30 minutes of daily exercise. You don’t have to achieve your 30 minutes all at one time,” said Dr. Hand. She added that including two days of resistance training is ideal and strongly encouraged.
  • Medications—According to Dr. Hand, the greatest benefit of medications, particularly Metformim, is seen in those with a higher body mass index. This medication lowers blood sugar levels by improving the way your body handles insulin. It is typically prescribed when diet and exercise alone aren’t controlling blood sugar levels.

Studies Indicate Exercise and Weight Loss Can Reverse Prediabetes
Dr. Hand shared a number of studies, each indicating that with 150 minutes of exercise each week, a healthy diet and sustained weight loss (in the seven percent range), prediabetes can be successfully reversed.

“With simple lifestyle changes, I personally lost 18 pounds and reduced my A1C from 5.8 to a normal level in just two years,” said Dr. Hand.

To make an appointment with Dr. Mikki Hand, call (303) 415-4355.

Click here to view/download a PDF of slides shown during this lecture.