Prediabetes: The ‘benign’ condition that does serious heart damage

Diabetes is well-known as a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke.

But pre-diabetes? No big deal, right?

At least, that’s what the medical community thought until recently…

The notion that pre-diabetes is “blood sugar that’s high but not high enough to be diabetes” has lulled us into a false sense of security.

Now, researchers are finding out that having prediabetes is a dangerous thing in its own right, and that we should be doing more to prevent it.

Prediabetes increases your risk of heart attack and stroke

“In general, we tend to treat prediabetes as no big deal. But we found that prediabetes itself can significantly boost someone’s chance of having a major cardiovascular event, even if they never progress to having diabetes,” says Dr. Adrian Michel.

Dr. Michel, an internal medicine resident at Beaumont Hospital-Royal Oak, Michigan, is the lead author of a study that has uncovered the very real risks we run when we allow our blood sugar to become elevated to unhealthy levels, better known as pre-diabetes.

The study included data from 25,829 patients who were treated within the Beaumont Health System in Michigan between 2006 and 2020. Participants ranged in age from eighteen to 104 years.

Over a median follow-up period of five years, the study found that serious cardiovascular events like heart attack or stroke occurred in 18 percent of people with prediabetes, compared with just 11 percent of people with normal blood sugar.

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Risks remain, even when blood sugar goes down

One finding was particularly disturbing.

Even for patients with prediabetes who were able to bring their blood sugar levels back to normal, the risk of having a cardiovascular event remained high.

Almost twice as many people who had formerly been prediabetic had cardiovascular events as those who had never had high blood sugar (10.5 percent compared with six percent).

Elevated glucose levels in the blood can cause inflammation and injury to blood vessels. This damage can lead to narrowing of the vessels and ultimately cardiovascular injury,

“Even if blood sugar levels went back to normal range, it didn’t really change their higher risk of having an event, so preventing prediabetes from the start may be the best approach,” Dr. Michel said.

Guidelines for preventing prediabetes

In keeping with Dr. Michel’s statement, it’s pretty clear that we need to focus on the prevention of prediabetes, rather than just on preventing diabetes.

The only way to know for sure whether you have prediabetes is with a fasting blood sugar test, which tells you how much sugar is still in your bloodstream after you’ve fasted for twelve hours. There are also signs of prediabetes you can watch for.

Maintaining a healthy weight goes a long way to helping your body process insulin more efficiently. But don’t get fooled into eating low-fat foods that are loaded with hidden sugars to improve their taste. You’d be shocked about the sugar content in so-called commercial “health foods” as well.

Nutritionist Sheryl Lozicki offers six dietary guidelines to help fight off prediabetes.

Also, you should get familiar with the glycemic index, a measure of how quickly 50 grams of carbohydrates in a particular food is converted to glucose (the simplest sugar molecule) in your body.

Understanding the GI will help you make food selections that will keep your blood sugar where it should be and lessen your risk of developing prediabetes. (And, it will provide you the chance to enjoy some foods you probably thought were off limits!)

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Sources:

Prediabetes may not be as benign as once thought — Eureka Alert

Pre-diabetes diet plan — sepalika.com

Prediabetes —Mayo Clinic

Joyce Hollman

By Joyce Hollman

Joyce Hollman is a writer based in Kennebunk, Maine, specializing in the medical/healthcare and natural/alternative health space. Health challenges of her own led Joyce on a journey to discover ways to feel better through organic living, utilizing natural health strategies. Now, practicing yoga and meditation, and working towards living in a chemical-free home, her experiences make her the perfect conduit to help others live and feel better naturally.