Senior Woman On BallIf you haven’t seen the campaign about prediabetes and diabetes risk, it’s time to put it on your radar. It’s more than just gaining weight from too many sweets—there are many factors that are outside your control, like gender, age, race, and family history.

In fact, some estimates say 1 in 3 Americans have prediabetes, or a high-risk of getting full-blown diabetes. A lot of diseases sound exaggerated to get you to spend money or pay attention, so let me break it down by the numbers.

It can take a few tests to confirm diabetes, and many doctors apply discretion—in either direction, actually. For instance, your doctor might do a test to check how your body is processing blood sugar by having you fast, then drinking something sugary. The blood draw will measure blood glucose in milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL). 126 or above is the range where diabetes is probably—some doctors might diagnose at 120 if a patient has a lot of risk factors, other might issue a warning and wait for the number to bump up or go down. Anything 100 or above is generally considered prediabetes, and similarly, discretion is often used based on the patient, area, doctor, etc.

Here’s what I want to emphasize, because it’s serious: even if you walk out of the appointment with a strict warning and a follow-up test, those high numbers mean a strain on your body, and that’s when symptoms of diabetes start to show up.

All that excess sugar starts to cause wear and tear. As your body stops being able to handle it (insulin resistant), damage starts to build up. On your nerves so that your hands and feet become tingly or numb, on your blood vessels so that, even with high sugar levels, you’re not getting the energy you need, and you become hungry, tired, grumpy, and even lose weight—but not in a healthy way. Wear and tear on your blood vessels also means poor circulation, making skin itchy, wounds heal more slowly. Vision can become blurry. And high levels of sugar mean you are more at risk for both bacterial and yeast infections (think of the extra risk this puts on already immuno-compromised hospital patients!).

As your body struggles to deal with the excess sugar, you’ll pee more (multiple times per night is the sign to go on), feel thirsty, and potentially damage your kidneys, depending on how long they have to work overtime to compensate.

Visually, your doctor might even be tipped off by the skin around your neck or armpit changing color.

Sound scary? It is. But it’s also really, really easy to fix. Losing just a few pounds can actually have a surprisingly strong, and positive impact on your health. You can do it by quitting sugary drinks, sneaking in some moderate exercise, or some other really, really, easy changes. And if you feel empowered by it, you can go a step further with more veggies, more exercise, and even more sleep.

Want to do more? Give yourself glycemic support. Add in some antioxidants, to combat all that sugar-induced inflammation. Make sure that all those hard-working organs have the nutritional support they need. And give yourself a break—change takes time, and you only need to take one step at a time to make a difference.

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