The silent condition that happens before type 2 diabetes often flies under the radar. Here’s what you need to know to nip prediabetes in the bud.
Singaporeans eat well, so well that diabetes has become a real problem. About one in nine people in Singapore have Type 2 diabetes – that puts us at the number two spot, just behind the US for diabetes rates.
But before diabetes strikes, patients actually first go through this stage called “prediabetes” – this is when your blood sugar is higher than normal, but not high enough to be diagnosed as a diabetes patient. This can be a make-or-break period. Continue to overeat and stay sedentary and you are on the fast track to full-blown diabetes; but if you pull the brakes and start living healthy, your condition can be reversed.
To help you nip prediabetes in the bud, we speak with Dr Philip Koh, senior family physician from Healthway Medical Group to suss out the most important facts you need to know.
(Also read: 5 Things You Must Know About Diabetes)
1. There are quiet tell-tale signs
Prediabetes is hard to detect because the symptoms are mild or non-existent. People usually find out their condition through a health screening. But Dr Koh shares that some patients with prediabetes may find darkened skin on parts of the body, particularly in skin folds on the neck, armpits, elbows or behind the knees. This condition is rare and is known as acanthosis nigricans.
2. Prediabetes can start at any age
The condition isn’t just for the middle-aged. In fact, a US study found that 25 per cent of obese children aged four to 10 had prediabetes. You should go for annual health screening to check for diabetes if you are overweight or obese, and if you have other risk factors like family history. Singaporeans and permanent residents can get their checks at just $5 under the Health Promotion Board’s Screen for Life programme. For a start, you can try the Diabetes Risk Assessment online quiz.
3. Lifestyle tweaks make a huge difference
The Diabetes Prevention Programme, a three-year study done in the US found that by making changes to diet, exercise and lifestyle habits alone, the study participants reduced their risk of Type 2 diabetes by 58 per cent.
“I remember a patient who, through proper diet and regular exercises, lost 20kg from his original 90kg weight and had his prediabetes reversed,” adds Dr Koh.
(Also read: 7 Healthy Habits That Reduce The Risk Of Diabetes)
4. You have to cover all your bases
To prevent prediabetes from turning into diabetes, you need to make changes in more areas than one. For a start, choose low-fat, high-fibre foods like fruits, veggies and whole grains, and choose low glycaemic index (GI) items like wholemeal bread and brown rice over refined carbs. And aim for 30 to 60 minutes of exercise five times a week.
If you’re overweight, losing just five to 10 per cent of your body weight can help reduce your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, says Dr Koh. On top of getting a healthier heart, you will feel more energetic and confident with a leaner body.
While at it, get on a plan to quit smoking. And if you are a high-risk patient, your doctor may recommend metformin or other medications to control your cholesterol and high blood pressure.