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?
Sherri Buffington knows right away when she's stressed out.
"I'll start to feel hot," she says. Once the warmth floods her body, she tests her blood sugar. It's almost always high.
Buffington isn't imagining the connection. Stress is known to spike blood sugar, also called glucose. "It's a very common occurrence," says Kevin Pantalone, DO, staff endocrinologist at Cleveland Clinic. "Stress can increase levels of hormones in the body, particularly cortisol, which can make blood sugar rise."
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.
Good to Know is a new feature that allows members of the community to answer questions from WebMD experts, doctors, staff, and other community members. We're testing this new feature and we'd like your feedback.