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Taking Prediabetes Seriously

Millions of Americans have prediabetes but don’t know it. The good news is that they can make simple lifestyle changes to prevent or delay developing type 2 diabetes. Pictured, Cheryl James (right) reversed her prediabetes with the help and encouragement of her coworker Michelle Carter.

As a Kaiser Permanente home health aide, Cheryl James knows that diabetes and its precursor prediabetes should not be taken lightly.

But the 46-year-old mother of 2 said she has lived with a diagnosis of prediabetes for years. James said she had tried every diet but still struggled to maintain a healthy weight, and it wasn’t until last summer that she was able to make the lifestyle changes she needed to improve her health.

Her coworker Michelle Carter convinced her to take a 13-week plant-based eating class at Kaiser Permanente South Sacramento. James said it changed her life.

Now, she’s cooking at home more and enjoying foods she’d never tried before — like tofu, lentils, and hummus. She’s also making time to be active, either walking with her daughter in the evening or dancing with her friends. She said her BMI isn’t where it should be yet, but she has more energy, more focus, and her lab results prove she’s healthier.

“My cholesterol went down, my blood pressure went down, and the lab work showed I no longer have prediabetes,” she said. “It is phenomenal.”

Know the Risk Factors

Prediabetes is a serious health condition that is characterized by blood sugar levels that are higher than normal, but not high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes. Having prediabetes puts people at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than 1 out of 3 American adults has prediabetes, but that 9 out of 10 adults who have it don’t know it.

Because many people have prediabetes but don’t experience symptoms, it’s important for everyone to ask their doctor about getting their blood sugar tested if they have any of the risk factors for prediabetes, including:

Small Changes Can Make a Big Difference

The good news for people who have prediabetes is that relatively small and simple lifestyle changes can help them prevent or delay getting type 2 diabetes and other serious health problems.

Eileen Kim, MD

“I tell my patients who have a new diagnosis that they should attend one of our prediabetes classes and start focusing on making small changes in their lifestyles that they can stick to,” explained Eileen Kim, MD, Kaiser Permanente Northern California’s clinical lead for prediabetes. “They could stop drinking soda, start walking as little as 10 minutes a day every day at lunch, or something else that’s achievable.”

Dr. Kim said medical research has established that when people with prediabetes lose even a modest amount of weight, as little as 5 to 7 percent of their body weight, they can significantly reduce their chances of developing type 2 diabetes.

“I’ve seen many of my patients, both young and old, make small changes that help keep their blood sugar stable for years, and they do not progress to type 2 diabetes,” Dr. Kim said. “It’s totally doable.”

Learn more about prediabetes or sign up to take a prediabetes class at a Kaiser Permanente medical center near you.