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Diabetes Might Begin 20 Years Before Diagnosis, Study Says — Here’s How to Stop It in Its Tracks


Learning you have type 2 diabetes can be a big shock for a lot of people. But according to new research, early signs of the condition can be found more than 20 years before the diagnosis. While this may seem a bit unnerving, there is good news: If you find out you have prediabetes ahead of time, it is possible to stop it from becoming actual diabetes.

The October 2018 study, presented at this year’s European Association for the Study of Diabetes Annual Meeting, tracked more than 27,000 non-diabetic adults with an average age of 49 between the years 2005 and 2016. Researchers found that risk factors for type 2 diabetes — such as a higher body-mass index (BMI), impaired insulin sensitivity, and increased fasting blood sugar — were detectable long before diabetes developed.

“As the vast majority of people with type 2 diabetes go through the stage of prediabetes, our findings suggest that elevated metabolic markers for diabetes are detectable more than 20 years before its diagnosis,” said lead researcher Dr. Hiroyuki Sagesaka in a press release. “Because trials of prevention in people with prediabetes seem to be less successful over long term follow up, we may need to intervene much earlier than the prediabetes stage to prevent progression to full-blown diabetes. A much earlier intervention trail, either drug or lifestyle related, is warranted.”

Talk to your doctor if you suspect that you have any risk factors for the condition. Luckily, there are ways to reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes — even if you already have prediabetes. 

How to Prevent Diabetes If You Have Prediabetes

  1. Be choosy about your meals. Aim for foods low in fat and calories and high in fiber, according to the Mayo Clinic. Try to fill most of your plate with fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
  2. Walk it out. A little bit of activity goes a long way. Getting at least 150 minutes per week of brisk walking can help lower your risk of type 2 diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). By the way, that’s just a half hour per day, five days a week.
  3. If you’re prescribed medication for prediabetes, take it. Closely following the guidelines on how and when to take it is crucial for diabetes prevention, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
  4. Monitor your blood sugar and blood pressure. As prescribed by your doctor, keep a close eye on the targets you need to hit — and don’t give up on reaching your goals. 
  5. Consider joining a support group. More than 100 million Americans have diabetes or prediabetes, according to the CDC. While this number might seem daunting, the good news is that you aren’t alone; many other folks are trying to overcome the same type of condition. There’s strength in numbers!

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