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Have You Had Your Blood Sugar Checked Lately? Here’s Why You Should

August 27, 2015

What do blurry vision, excess weight, extreme thirst and wounds or infections that take longer than usual to heal all have in common?

These are all symptoms of prediabetes—a condition that affects more than 86 million Americans. That’s one out of three citizens.

Many people likely have never heard of prediabetes or don’t quite understand what it is. Prediabetes is a condition in which insulin or blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not enough to qualify as diabetic. People who are affected by this condition have an increased risk for Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

Prediabetes doesn’t have obvious signs, and 90 percent of people with this condition don’t even know they have it. But if you’re at risk for developing diabetes or have a family history, there’s one preventative measure you can undertake to have more control over your health: testing your blood sugar.

Why You Have Your Blood Sugar Tested

You may be accustomed to checking your blood pressure and cholesterol, especially if you’re of a certain age. As we get older, our risk for certain health issues increases. The American Diabetes Association recommends that people over age 45 regularly test their blood sugar, even if they don’t have significant risk factors. However, if you are overweight, have a family history of Type 2 diabetes and have high blood pressure, among other risk factors, then you should get tested sooner rather than later.

To diagnose prediabetes, we may perform either a glycated hemoglobin (A1C) blood test or a fasting blood sugar test. The A1C test determines your average blood sugar level for the last two or three months by measuring the percentage of blood sugar attached to hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lung to the tissues. With a fasting blood sugar test, we take a blood sample after you have fasted for at least eight hours. If your blood sugar levels are high even after fasting, then you may have prediabetes or diabetes already.

If tests indicate you are prediabetic, we will check your cholesterol, fasting blood sugar and triglycerides (fat found in the blood) at least once a year. However, if you have any associated risk factors, we may perform these tests more often.

How to Combat Prediabetes

If you have prediabetes, the best thing you can do is change your lifestyle. If you lose weight by eating a healthy diet and being more active, you can cut your risk for Type 2 diabetes in half, according to the CDC. Without weight loss and moderate exercise, between 15 and 30 percent of people with prediabetes will develop diabetes in five years. Diabetes can cause other serious health issues, such as kidney failure, blindness, heart disease and stroke, so it’s important to understand your risk and take every step possible to prevent this disease.

If you are concerned about prediabetes, take the American Diabetes Association’s quiz to assess your risk. Also schedule an appointment with your doctor to test your blood sugar. Depending on the results, you may need to adjust your diet, level of physical activity or begin taking medication if you have high risk factors. Also, consider joining a diabetes prevention program. Orlando Health offers diabetes education programs, as does the YMCA and other local organizations.Prediabetes is basically your body’s way of warning you that you need to make some changes, so don’t ignore the signals. Listen to what your body is telling you and make any necessary adjustments as soon as possible to improve your health.