On November 13, in Colombia, the National Day of Prediabetes was commemorated for the first time, a disease that is associated with glucose levels higher than normal but lower than the defined threshold for diabetes.
To learn a little more about prediabetes, we spoke with dr. Henry Tovar, specialist in internal medicine and endocrinology, and president of the Colombian Association of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism, who told us what are those symptoms that must be taken into account in order to detect this disease in time, which today affects to many people.
What is prediabetes?
The term prediabetes refers to an intermediate metabolic state. In some people, due to defects in the production or response to insulin, the body cannot properly control blood sugar levels and this hormone generally helps normalize high blood sugar levels.
How is it diagnosed?
Prediabetes can be diagnosed through a simple blood test that measures glucose levels, as well as specialized tests, among the most common we can find:
• Fasting blood sugar
• Oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT)
• Hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c)
What are your symptoms?
There are no obvious signs or symptoms, 9 out of 10 people with prediabetes are completely unaware that they have it. Knowing that you have prediabetes gives people the opportunity to control their blood glucose levels before it progresses to type 2 diabetes.
How many types of this disease are there?
There is only prediabetes, this is the predecessor to type 2 diabetes. Many people believe that the term “pre” can be considered as a situation that is not so serious. However, those with prediabetes put at greater risk not only suffering from Type 2 diabetes (T2DM), but an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, early stage nephropathy, chronic kidney disease, diabetic retinopathy and even diseases such as cancer has also been shown.
Does prediabetes affect more young people or older adults?
Although the risk of prediabetes increases with age, there are still a significant number of working-age prediabetes patients. Nearly half (49%) of adults ages 20-79 are under 50, and nearly a third are 20-39.
Which is the treatment?
The best treatment will be defined by the doctor. However, in the last ten years several clinical trials regarding the treatment of prediabetes have shown the effectiveness in slowing the progression of prediabetes to diabetes. These studies provide optimistic data and allow establishing that:
• Lifestyle changes are highly effective in slowing the progression from prediabetes to diabetes.
• Pharmacological agents that increase insulin sensitivity or that prevent carbohydrate absorption also confer a delaying effect on the progression from prediabetes to diabetes.
In Colombia, how many people suffer from this disease?
Within one of the last known projections for Colombia, it was estimated that in relation to the number of the country’s population for the year 2018, there would be 3.2 million adult prediabetic patients, of which 2.1 million will not be diagnosed or treated, that is, two out of every three Colombian prediabetics is unprotected from the risk of becoming diabetic or presenting cardiovascular events.
Which people are most at risk for prediabetes?
People with a higher risk of suffering from prediabetes are those with the following characteristics:
• Have a family history of diabetes.
• Be in an age range over 40 years.
• Being overweight.
• Have a history of gestational diabetes (diabetes or high blood sugar levels during pregnancy).
• Have high blood pressure.
• Being a sedentary person, who does not perform any type of physical activity.
• Certain ethnic groups such as: Africans, Native Americans, Latin Americans, or Islanders from the Asia-Pacific region.
• If you have a high cholesterol level.
• In the specific case of women, those who suffer from Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS).