With today’s sedentary lifestyles and fast food culture, the fact is that diabetes is on the rise in an alarming way. HEALTH speaks to Dr. Mahir Khalil Jallo, Associate Professor and Senior Consultant Diabetes and Endocrinology at Gulf Medical University Hospital (GMC) who explains that managing borderline diabetes has never been easier with some simple lifestyle and dietary tweaks.
Mark from Dubai says that he never even thought of diabetes or pre-diabetes until one day when he had to visit his GP for a throat infection. He explains, “In routine, the doctor asked me of my family history. When I mentioned that my mother had type 2 diabetes, he suggested I get checked. I had no issues and thought it was routine. But the results came back and shockingly showed that I was in the very early stages of diabetes. That was just one month back; I have been so stressed because of this and ervous… What if I develop full blown diabetes like my mother?”
Pre-diabetes or borderline diabetes, Dr.Jallo clarifies that diabetes is diabetes and there are certain accepted criteria for diagnosing it. “The term prediabetes is the correct and accepted terms which means that your blood sugar level is higher than normal range which is 70 – 100 mg/dl however it’s not yet high enough to be classified as type 2 diabetes which is above 126 mg/dl,” he says. “However alarmingly, without intervention, pre-diabetes is likely to become type 2 diabetes in 10 years or less.” And even more so, he explains that if you have pre-diabetes, the long-term damage of diabetes – especially to your heart and circulatory system may have already begun.
Lack of Symptoms
Before developing type 2 diabetes, an individual will almost always have prediabetes beforehand. But unfortunately, pre-diabetes is a condition without symptoms, which essentially means that many people can have it without even knowing it. Luckily, pre-diabetes can be diagnosed and treatment can prevent many health problems and complications. Pre-diabetes, tells Dr.Jallo, is usually discovered accidentally during a periodic checkup or during investigations conducted for other medical consultation. “Usually there are no overt symptoms,” he tells, however darkened areas of the skin, a condition called acanthosis nigricans,
is one of the few signs suggesting you are at risk for diabetes. “Common areas that may be affected include the neck, armpits, elbows, knees and knuckles,” explains Dr. Jallo. However the good news is that during the past few years, with increasing awareness and the public screenings camps held regularly, early diagnosis of pre-diabetes has become facilitated. “Another positive side to being diagnosed with pre-diabetes is that it can be an opportunity for you to improve your health, because progression from pre-diabetes to type 2 diabetes is NOT inevitable,” he says, as incorporating healthy lifestyle changes – such as consuming whole, healthy foods, and also including physical activity in your daily routine as well as maintaining a healthy weight; all which Dr. Jallo explains may actually help to bring your blood sugar level back to normal.
Factors At Large
Being Overweight Unfortunately with more and more people literally glued to their desks all day long and increasingly consuming unhealthy foods has led to excess weight gain. And according to Dr. Jallo, the same factors that increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes also increase the risk of developing pre-diabetes. These include extra weight. “Being overweight is a primary risk factor for pre-diabetes as the more fatty tissue you have – the more resistant your cells become to insulin,” he explains.
Not finding the time to exercise or just flat out too tired to partake in regular exercise? Whatever the excuse, partaking in routine exercise is becoming a huge problem. Dr. Jallo explains, “Another factor is inactivity as the less active you are, the greater your risk of pre-diabetes.” Physical activity helps you control your weight, uses up glucose as energy and he adds, makes your cells more sensitive to insulin.
While age is associated with lower energy levels and the risk of degenerative disease, there is also a risk of diabetes. “Another factor is advancing age as the risk of prediabetes increases as you get older, especially after age 45,” he points out. “This may possibly be due to the fact that as people get older, they often tend to exercise less, lose muscle mass and gain weight as they age.”
Family History and Race
If your mother, father or sibling has type 2 diabetes, then Dr. Jallo tells that the risk of pre-diabetes increases. “Race is another factor, although it’s unclear why (remove comma) people of certain races – including African-Americans, Hispanics, Native American Indians, Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders – are more likely to develop prediabetes,” he explains.
Also gestational diabetes is another factor as Dr. Jallo explains that if you developed gestational diabetes when you were pregnant, your risk of later developing diabetes increases. “If you gave birth to a baby who weighed more than 9 pounds (4.1 kilograms), you’re also at increased risk of diabetes,” he explains.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
Another possible trigger, tells Dr. Jallo, is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. “Women having this common condition, which is characterized by irregular menstrual periods, excess hair growth and obesity – increases the risk of diabetes,” he says.
Sleep plays a monumental role in rejuvenating the mind and body but did you know it also plays a role in the possible development of pre-diabetes? Dr. Jallo explains, “Another important factor is sleep as several recent studies have linked a lack of sleep or too much sleep to an increased risk of insulin resistance.” He adds that research suggests that regularly sleeping fewer than six hours or more than nine hours a night might increase your risk of pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes. “Even individuals with high blood pressure, low levels of HDL, or the ‘good’ cholesterol as well as high levels of triglycerides – a type of fat in your blood– are more likely to have prediabetes,” he says.
Diagnostic tests for Pre-diabetes
The only way to know for certain that you have pre-diabetes is by either undergoing a fasting plasma glucose test (FGP) or an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT). These tests can ascertain whether or not you have pre-diabetes by identifying the presence of either impaired fasting glucose (IFT) or impaired glucose tolerance (IGT), both of which signify pre-diabetes.