Prediabetes: Why Asians Have Higher Risk

marcom@healthxchange.com.sg (healthxchange.sg)
·3-min read

15 Nov 2020 (Sunday) marks World Diabetes Day 2020 (Singapore). Hit the link to check out and register for the wide variety of free public forums lined up for "Let's TALK Diabetes".

Prediabetes can be easily reversed by losing weight, eating healthier and adopting a more active lifestyle can often stop borderline type 2 diabetes or prediabetes from advancing to the full disease. However, once type 2 diabetes is diagnosed, the disease can only be managed and not reversed.

“Lifestyle interventions such as increasing physical activity and modifying eating habits have been shown to reduce the progression from prediabetes to diabetes by about 35 to 50 per cent over a decade,” advised Dr Goh Su-Yen, Head and Senior Consultant from the Department of Endocrinology at Singapore General Hospital (SGH), a member of the SingHealth group.

“(Making these changes) is the most effective, and cheapest, way of reversing pre-diabetes,” she said.

Read more: Reverse prediabetes with theses tips, exercises and programmes

Prediabetes: Why are Asians more susceptible

In prediabetes or borderline diabetes, the insulin producing cells in the pancreas struggle to make enough insulin to reduce the levels of sugar in the blood.

People with excess weight around the waist are most susceptible to developing both prediabetes and diabetes. When fat levels build up in the abdomen – around organs like the liver and pancreas – these cells turn “blind” to rising blood sugar levels. Paying attention to weight and body fat distribution is important.

Asians are prone to storing fat as they do not process excess dietary fat well.

They also tend to have higher levels of body fat than Caucasians of the same weight. “We have found that Asians develop prediabetes at an earlier age and a lower BMI (body mass index, the standard measure of healthy body weight) than Caucasians,” said Dr Goh.

Prediabetes: Symptoms to watch out for

Feel tired, thirsty or urinating more than usual? These are signs that your blood sugar levels may be higher than normal. But few people with borderline diabetes will have these warning signals.

There are, however, other indications. People who are overweight, middle-aged, lead a sedentary lifestyle, have high blood pressure, LDL cholesterol or triglyceride levels, and a family history of diabetes, are more likely to develop the condition.

Read more: Foods that lower blood pressure (and what foods raise it)

Prediabetes vs diabetes

Prediabetes is diagnosed if the blood sugar level registers between 7.8 mmol/L and 11.0 mmol/L by the gold standard oral glucose tolerance test. The test involves taking a blood sample after overnight fasting, and a second sample two hours after consuming a sweet glucose drink.

Diabetes is diagnosed if the reading is more than 11.1 mmol/L. Normal blood glucose level is under 7.8 mmol/L.

People diagnosed with prediabetes should get their blood glucose level measured every six to 12 months. Those who have normal blood sugar levels but who have a family history of type 2 diabetes should undergo diabetes screening after the age of 40.

Read more: How to monitor blood glucose (sugar) levels and best times to test

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