Ask a Health Care Professional – Diabetes

By Latha Raja Shankar, chief medical officer, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Mexico

November is National Diabetes Month. It’s time to get educated, understand our risks, connect with resources and engage in prevention.

What is prediabetes?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) describes prediabetes as a serious health condition. When blood sugars are higher than normal but not yet high enough to be Type 2 diabetes, one is diagnosed with prediabetes. Prediabetes increases your risk for stroke, heart disease and progression to Type 2 diabetes.

How do I know if I have prediabetes?

It is very important to get screened for prediabetes by having your blood sugar (glucose) tested. If your glucose is elevated, additional tests may be recommended. Even if you are not diagnosed with diabetes, elevated blood glucose or prediabetes is concerning. If you are diagnosed with prediabetes, it is important to have your blood glucose tested yearly to continue to screen for diabetes.

If you have prediabetes, can you prevent the progression to Type 2 diabetes?

The good news is that you can take steps to return your blood sugar to normal and prevent diabetes from developing. Studies show that doing small things — like losing 7 percent of your body weight and exercising moderately — can lower your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by 58 percent. Moderate exercise is defined as moderate-intensity physical activity, such as brisk walking for at least 150 minutes a week. If you walk for 30 minutes for five days a week, you will hit this goal. Include activities to build strength of all major muscle groups.

Choose non-starchy vegetables, low sugar fruits, whole grains, lean protein, water and unsweetened beverages. Avoid sugary drinks, alcohol, trans fats and processed food. Watch portion size and read labels carefully.

You can find support through the National Diabetes Prevention program – a nationwide lifestyle change program designed to prevent or delay Type 2 Diabetes. Since April 2018, the lifestyle change program has been a covered benefit for Medicare beneficiaries.

What you need to know about diabetes

  • Diabetes is a silent disease because most people with prediabetes and diabetes either do not have symptoms or the symptoms are confused with signs of aging. A blood test is needed for the diagnosis.
  • Complications from diabetes can be prevented, and when you have diabetes the blood sugars can be controlled with achievable lifestyle modifications and medications.
  • Diabetes is a common medical problem. According to the CDC, about 34 million Americans have diabetes. In New Mexico, 12.3 percent of people have diabetes and 36 percent have prediabetes.
  • Diagnosed diabetes costs New Mexicans $2 billion dollars a year.
  • If your glucose is elevated but you don’t have diabetes, you have an opportunity to intervene and change the course of the disease. Getting screened is important.
  • Look at your risk factors and determine what you can change. Become more active and make more healthful food choices.
  • For more information, you can go to:

If you have a health question that you would like to be considered in Ask a Health Care Professional, please email [email protected]. BCBSNM will select questions that may appear. Questions will not be personally answered. The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and not necessarily those of BCBSNM. This column is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical care.

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