2265 North Clybourn Avenue    Chicago, IL 60614    P: 773.296.6700     F: 773.296.1131

Pre-Diabetes: What It Is And What To Do

Most physicians, myself included, jot a personal comment on a patient’s lab tests. My favorite is “Everything’s excellent!” which can be typed quickly and concentrates good news into two words that I hope trigger a smile.

According to a recent New York Times article, doctors are writing the sentence “Your tests show you’re now in the range of pre-diabetes” more often than ever. “Pre-diabetes” means that while you’re not currently a diabetic, you have a higher risk of developing it than other people. The population with pre-diabetes is enormous: more than 70 million people translates to one in three Americans. 60% of people over age 40. Big numbers.

Pre-diabetes is diagnosed from an elevated blood sugar test or an elevated non-fasting hemoglobin A1C (A1C). The second of these, which measures your average blood sugar over the previous three months, is the superior test. It was decidedly annoying that until recently health insurance companies were reluctant to include this test as part of a general wellness exam. However, now it’s pretty routine and usually ordered after a patient shows some evidence of consistently elevated blood sugar levels.

If you hear you’re pre-diabetic, plan to make some changes
If you ignore a warning of pre-diabetes, it’s like putting your phone in silent mode while your neighbors are trying to tell you your house is on fire. If you do develop diabetes (15 to 30% of pre-diabetics do within five years), you’ll likely spend a lot of your future in healthcare-related waiting areas, including your primary care physician’s office and your pharmacy, and probably one or more of the following: cardiologist, kidney specialist, ophthalmologist, endocrinologist, vascular surgeon, and podiatrist.

You’ll take lots of pills, be checking your blood sugar regularly, and be depressed with the high premiums for life insurance because (sorry) the odds are against you for a healthy longevity.

Believe me, you’ve got better things to do with your life than be a diabetic.

Take the new online questionnaire for pre-diabetes right now. Strangely, it has come under criticism because so many people come up positive for pre-diabetes.

What good is a screening test, wondered one expert in the field, when 70-80% of the responders turn out to be pre-diabetic? His remark finally gives me the opportunity to use the phrase “That sort of begs the question.” I have been waiting years for this.

Look, if a screening test is designed to screen for an illness, the fact that it has uncovered a lot of pre-diabetics doesn’t mean the test is faulty. It signals that we’re paying the price for being overweight couch potatoes eating terribly unhealthy food. Where’s the surprise? We now know a lot of us are at risk for a chronic illness and we can start doing something about it. It begs the question to complain about the results.

Did your test come up positive for pre-diabetes?
Here’s an important point: As we age, the pancreas produces less insulin, blood sugar creeps up, and pre-diabetes becomes more likely. Take steps to reduce your risk by eating a healthful diet of whole (not processed) foods and keeping as active as possible in order to maintain a healthy weight and keep your blood pressure under control.

However, pre-diabetes at any age should be taken seriously.

Also in the New York Times piece, a doctor remarked about his own sense of helplessness once a patient was diagnosed as pre-diabetic. All he could do, he said, was to tell the patient to eat more healthfully, lose weight, and exercise, and he thought everyone should do that anyway.

Things are different at WholeHealth Chicago
We don’t have a sense of helplessness. A diagnosis of pre-diabetes means we all (patient and staff) get to work.

It does help that WHC patients are seriously oriented toward overall wellness and seem to grasp that eating healthfully and exercising regularly are fundamental to that end. We don’t diagnose pre-diabetes as frequently as other health care centers, but if you turn out to be pre-diabetic or are simply overweight and want to do something about it, one of our three nutritionists can help get you on the right track by showing you how to make smart food choices. We’ll also outline a good exercise program and ask about the status of your health club membership and whether your elliptical mainly serves as a clothes rack.

Let me add that the diabetic patients in our practice take really good care of themselves. They’re well informed, have selected a good array of specialists, and mostly do the right things. I’ve known some of my diabetic patients for decades. We’re all growing old together, which is the way it should be.

So again, please take the online test (less than 60 seconds to complete). Also check the main website for helpful information on reducing/reversing your risk.

If you’re at risk, ask your doctor for a hemoglobin A1C test. If the results confirm that you’re pre-diabetic, get to work on yourself. And remember: a chronic illness like diabetes not only shortens your life, it’s also very tedious.

Be well,
David Edelberg, MD

 

Leave a Comment


  1. Marite Plume says:

    I wish I had gotten info about type 2 earlier in life perhaps thru an employer or health care insurer. Health education should be mandatory in our school system. I am 72 now and in comparatively good health.The only thing I wish for is a group to meet with to steer me in food preparation for type 2. Recipes are available but after a lifetime of cooking a certain way it is hard follow recipes with unfamiliar flavors and strange veggies but boring to stick to the few I already use. It would be great to join a group & then discover some new tastes, one at a time.

  2. deborahbraun2@gmail.com says:

    Could you tell me what is a normal A1-c for an 83 year old woman? What is prediabetic?

  3. Calajean Kofmann says:

    Interesting! I’d like to learn more about Pre-diabetes.

  4. Dorothy says:

    What about medicines that may increase your chances of developing diabetes? I read on Medline recently about how some hypertension meds are diabetogenic.

  5. Dr E says:

    Hi Dorothy
    Yes, you are correct but you doctor can keep tabs on this. It’s not a common side effect but needs watching

  6. Kathyr says:

    Jan. 16, 2019

    Your third paragraph:

    “Pre-diabetes is diagnosed from an elevated blood sugar test or an elevated non-fasting hemoglobin A1C (A1C). The second of these, which measures your average blood sugar over the previous three months, is the superior test”

    an ELEVATED NON-FASTING A1C???

    A1Cs never need to be fasting.

    i am hoping this is just a careless typo?

Join our Newsletter

Get health recommendations, delicious and time-saving recipes, medical news, supplement reviews, birthday discounts, and more!

Health Tips

Dr. Edelberg’s Health Tips contain concise bits of advice, medical news, nutritional supplement and pharmaceutical updates, and stress relief ideas. With every Health Tip, you’ll also receive an easy, delicious, and healthful recipe.

When you sign up to receive Health Tips, you can look forward to Dr. Edelberg’s smart and very current observations arriving in your in-box weekly. They’re packed with helpful information and are often slightly irreverent. One of the most common responses to the tips is “I wish my doctor talked to me like this!”

Quick Connect

Get One Click Access to our

patient-portal

The Knowledge Base

Patient education is an integral part of our practice. Here you will find a comprehensive collection of staff articles, descriptions of therapies and nutritional supplements, information addressing your health concerns, and the latest research on nutritional supplements and alternative therapies.

Telemedicine – Now Available at WholeHealth Chicago

In order to maintain your continuity of care, WholeHealth Chicago now offers telemedicine appointments with most of our practitioners. During a telemedicine visit, you and your healthcare provider can review medical history, discuss symptoms, arrange for prescriptions, and more. When necessary, labs and diagnostic imaging can be ordered from a facility near your home, and our Natural Apothecary can ship supplements quickly to your door.

Please contact Patient Services for details and scheduling a telemedicine appointment, or to change a regular appointment to telemedicine by calling 773-296-6700.

We’re looking forward to meeting with you in our virtual consultation room soon.

DIAGNOSE-IT-YOURSELF: COVID-19

Far and away, the commonest phone call/e mail I receive asks about COVID-19 diagnosis.
Just print this out, tape it on your refrigerator door, and stay calm.

ALLERGIES

• Runny nose
• Sneezing
• Red, swollen eyes
• Itchy eyes and nose
• Tickly throat
• No fever

COLD
• Runny nose
• Sneezing
• Sore throat
• Mild muscle aches
• Mild dry cough
• Rarely a low fever

STREP THROAT
• Painful sore throat
• Hurts to swallow
• Swollen glands in neck
• Fever

FLU (Standard seasonal flu)
• Fever
• Dry cough (no mucus)
• Sudden onset over few hours
• Headache
• Sore throat
• Fatigue, sometimes quite severe
• Muscle aches, sometimes quite severe
• Rarely, diarrhea

CORONAVIRUS-COVID 19
• Shortness of breath
• Fever (usually above 100 degrees)
• Dry cough (no mucus)
• Slow onset (2-14 days)
• Mild muscle aches
• Mild fatigue
• Mild sneezing

Recent Health Tips

  • Functional Medicine 101 + Introducing Dr. Parisa Samsami

    Functional Medicine (FM) is without a doubt the fastest growing medical specialty of the 21st century. Public interest and broad public acceptance of it continue to please me. Every day I hear the sentence, “I made this appointment because I wanted a functional approach.” When I ask patients how they learned about it, the answer is a variation on Dr. Google. Here at WholeHealth Chicago we’ve Read More

  • The Flu Shot: Now More Important Than Ever

    When it comes to the flu shot, I take a far more conventional approach than many WholeHealth Chicago patients expect of a doctor who considers himself alternative/integrative. It’s also worth noting that after reviewing some of the online advice warning people away from the flu shot, it’s my sense that this is frequently followed by “…and this is my product you can buy instead.” So Read More

  • Lyme Disease In Your Nervous System: Three Cases

    “Why am I limiting this to only three cases?” I wondered. Physicians who treat Lyme, like our group at WholeHealth Chicago where we see a lot of Lyme disease patients, would tell you there are so many manifestations of Lyme when it invades the nervous system that I really should list as many as possible. But to keep this Health Tip manageable, we’ll keep it Read More

Join our Discount Program

Member benefits include 10% off all your purchases. Low, one-time membership fee of $25 ($35 for family).

MORE INFORMATION

Join our Newsletter

Get health recommendations, recipes, medical news, supplement reviews, birthday discounts, and more!