Yes, You Can See Prediabetes as a Gift
Can a health problem actually be considered a blessing?
Yes, according to Mary Lobb Oyos, RN, MS, who serves as a Diabetes Program Manager at Avera McKennan Hospital & University Health Center. “Prediabetes is the check-engine light on the dashboard of life,” she said.
A diagnosis of prediabetes gives you the opportunity to do something about it, before it causes long-term, permanent and costly damage.
“It’s among the biggest issues in population health, with almost 220,000 people facing it in South Dakota alone. That’s 35 percent of the state’s population,” said Sue Johannsen, PA, GNP, an Avera Medical Group nurse practitioner who works with many patients facing prediabetes. “When you find out you have it, it’s an opportunity – a warning, too – but a chance to take control, improve your overall health and reverse the condition.”
Widespread and What it Means
Prediabetes is among America’s most widespread health problems; it is the precursor to type 2 diabetes. In both its forms, diabetes is a disease that affects how our bodies deal with the glucose (sugar) in food. The hormone insulin helps our blood cells process glucose into energy. People with prediabetes and type 2 diabetes do not make enough insulin, and their cells don’t use the insulin correctly.
When prediabetes is untreated, it can become type 2 diabetes. That condition brings risks of blindness, kidney disease, heart attack, stroke, nerve pain and permanent damage as well as amputation due to tissue damage, most commonly in the foot.
“The diagnosis can be a wake-up call to get you on the right track with healthy lifestyle habits. It’s not like high blood pressure where the only choice may be medication,” said Oyos. “Sometimes a provider is hesitant to use a label. You might hear them say ‘Your blood sugar is a little high’ instead of prediabetes. But we need to be clear with people: this is a health concern.”
Reversing The Condition
Often, prediabetes can be reversed with simple lifestyle changes focused on diet, activity and weight loss, said Oyos. Johannsen agrees with her colleague.
“As a provider, I can put patients in touch with a dietitian or we can discuss how diabetes affected their parents, if it’s part of their family history,” said Johannsen. “We can start that conversation, and almost as important, continue it during follow-up appointments.”
Prediabetes education events are another great way to take the “gift” of the diagnosis and start down a new path.