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Diabetes Can Cause Heart Disease: Are You Pre-Diabetic?

It's no secret that adult-onset diabetes (also known as type 2 diabetes) is one of the fastest growing disease conditions in the United States. What's not so well known is that approximately 40 percent of all adults in the US are already pre-diabetic, meaning that unless they make positive and lasting changes in their lives that they too will almost certainly develop diabetes as they grow older. Even worse, a significant number of people who are pre-diabetic have no idea that they are suffering from pre-diabetes. Are you one of them?

Pre-diabetes is defined as a condition in which blood sugar (glucose) levels are consistently higher than normal blood sugar levels. People who fall into this category are between five to 15 times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, compared to people with normal blood sugar levels. As you doubtless realize, type 3 diabetes can be life-threatening, since it can dramatically increase your risk heart disease (including heart attacks and stroke) and certain types of cancer. Other serious complications of type 2 diabetes include circulation problems, erectile dysfunction (in men), kidney failure, and nerve damage. Left unchecked, type 2 diabetes can also result in vision problems, including blindness, and the need for amputation.

Risk Factors For Pre-Diabetes

The number one risk factor for both pre- and type 2 diabetes is obesity, which is defined as being 20 or more pounds over your ideal body weight. Research has shown that people who are obese have an 8,000 percent greater chance of developing type 2 diabetes than people who are within their normal body weight range. Therefore, if you are overweight or obese, you need to take prompt action to reverse your condition, beginning with a consultation with your Health Coach so that he or she can advise you on the best ways for your to effectively do so.

But obesity is far from the only risk factor for pre- and type 2 diabetes. Other risk factors include:

  • Having parents or siblings who are diabetic
  • A waist measurement greater than 35 inches (women) or greater than 40 inches (men)
  • Chronically elevated blood sugar levels
  • Chronically elevated insulin levels
  • Chronic high blood pressure
  • Elevated levels of cholesterol and/or triglycerides
  • Craving for sweets and/or starchy carbohydrate foods
  • Lack of energy
  • Tendency to feel tired after eating (especially after lunch)
  • Tendency to skip breakfast
  • Frequent sensations of thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Low thyroid function (hypothyroidism)
  • Inactive lifestyle
  • Erectile dysfunction (ED)
  • Difficulty sleeping at night
  • Feeling tired when getting up in the morning
  • Low libido

If any of the above risk factors apply to you, even if you are not overweight or obese, it's important that you have your Health Coach determine if you are in fact pre-diabetic.

Test For Pre- and Type 2 Diabetes

To most accurately determine your risk of pre- and type 2 diabetes, you will need to have your Health Coach test you for it. This can be achieved with a few simple tests. However, not all of them are routine, so you may have to ask that your Health Coach include them at the time of testing. Ideally, your tests should include all of the following:

  • Fasting Glucose Test: This test is fairly standard and is usually part of a routine physical exam. To have it performed, you will need to abstain from eating all foods for at least eight, and ideally 12, hours, at which time your Health Coach will draw blood to measure your blood glucose (blood sugar) levels. Most physicians regard any blood glucose measure of between 65 to 99 milligrams per deciliter (65-99 mg/dL) to be within the normal range. However, research has shown that men with a fasting blood glucose level of 97 mg/dL had nearly a 100 percent greater risk of developing diabetes compared to men who levels were 81 mg/dL or less. Therefore, your aim should be to achieve a fasting blood glucose level of 81 mg/dL or less. Levels higher than that may be a sign of trouble.

    Note: Should you decide to have your physician measure your fasting blood glucose level, also ask him or her to measure your insulin levels at the same time. (Both measurements can be obtained after your blood is drawn.) While such an insulin test is not used by most physicians as a basis to determine the risk of diabetes, many doctors still regard it as a useful indication of whether their patients are at risk for pre-diabetes. Ideally, you should aim for a reading of 7 micro-international units per milliliter (7 mcU/mL) or less. Levels of 11 mcU/mL to 25 mcU/mL are typically signs that pre-diabetes is already present. Anything above 25 mcU/mL is dangerous.

  • Oral Glucose Tolerance Test For Glucose and Insulin: This test is a more efficient way to accurately determine your blood glucose and insulin levels. Like the fasting glucose test, it involves fasting - this time for 12 hours. After your blood is initially drawn, you will be asked to drink a glucose solution and then have your blood drawn again after one, two, and possibly three hours. Normal levels for this test are blood glucose below 140 mg/dL and insulin levels at or below 55 mcU/ml.

  • Hemoglobin A1C (HbA1c): This last test can help your Health Coach to determine whether or not damage is being caused to the proteins in your blood as a result of free radicals caused by glucose binding to oxygen-carrying hemoglobin in red blood cells. The results for this test are expressed as a percentage, with normal levels ranging from 4.5 to 4.9 percent. This test can accurately predict your risk of developing a variety of health problems, including heart attacks. Research has shown that every one percent increase in HbA1c increases the risk of heart attacks by an average of 20 percent. Additional research indicates that a measurement of HbA1c between 5.7 and 6.9 percent is an indication of pre-diabetes, with readings of 7.0 percent or greater being a sign of diabetes.
  • Conclusion

    Based on the above information, you can see why it is so important for you to know whether or not you are at risk for pre-diabetes, as well as type 2 diabetes. That is why the above tests are so highly recommended, particularly if you any of the risk factors mentioned above apply to you. Fortunately, both pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes can be managed and even reversed. Next month, I'll share ways in which you can do so.

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