In every issue of WebMD the Magazine, we ask our experts to answer readers' questions about a wide range of topics. In our January-February 2011 issue, we asked WebMD's diabetes expert, Michael Dansinger, MD, to answer a question about the link between prediabetes and diabetes.
Q: At my last checkup, my doctor told me I have prediabetes. Does that mean I'll ultimately develop diabetes?
The endocrine system is a network of glands that produce and release hormones that help control many important body functions, especially the body's ability to change calories into energy that powers cells and organs. The endocrine system influences how your heart beats, how your bones and tissues grow, even your ability to make a baby. It plays a vital role in whether or not you develop diabetes, thyroid disease, growth disorders, sexual dysfunction, and a host of other hormone-related disorders...
A: Almost everyone who develops type 2 diabetes develops prediabetes first. But not everyone who has prediabetes -- defined as having levels of glucose (a type of sugar in the blood) that are higher than normal but not yet diabetic -- ends up with diabetes. In fact, changing your lifestyle can significantly delay or even prevent type 2 diabetes.
Those changes can include losing a moderate amount of weight (5% to 10% of your body weight -- about 8 to 16 pounds for a 160-pound woman), getting regular exercise (about 30 minutes daily), and eating healthy meals. There are lots of good eating plans for delaying or preventing diabetes -- most emphasize a variety of vegetables, fruits, fish, lean chicken, beans, low-fat dairy, egg whites, soy, and whole grains.
Quitting smoking, drinking alcohol only moderately (if you drink already), and reducing stress all help keep your bloodglucose levels under control.
You should also know that prediabetes puts you at risk for other conditions, such as heart disease and stroke. In fact, prediabetes is now considered one of America's most serious health problems (one in four adults has it). Knowing how to keep it in check can prevent diabetes from developing in the future.