Diabetes is a notoriously expensive disease for employees and their employers, and if not properly managed this chronic condition can lead to an array of health events and disorders that reduce quality of life. Considering how easily preventable and reversible prediabetes can be in comparison to living with diabetes, individuals and their employers should feel encouraged to test for prediabetes ahead of a diabetes diagnosis.
A prediabetes diagnosis is given when an individual has an abnormally high blood-sugar level, but not high enough to diagnose Type 2 diabetes. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Fasting Blood-Sugar test and the Hemoglobin A1c test are two common blood tests used for diagnosing prediabetes:
Fasting Blood Sugar Test
- 99 mg/dL or lower is normal
- 100 to 125 mg/dL indicates prediabetes
- 126 mg/dL or higher indicates diabetes
Hemoglobin A1c Test (usually ordered if blood sugar level is greater than 100 mg/dL)
- A1C below 5.7% is normal
- Between 5.7 and 6.4% indicates prediabetes
- 6.5% or higher indicates diabetes
Prediabetes has no clear symptoms and therefore can be easy to miss. Proactive prediabetes prevention and testing is necessary to best avoid prediabetes complications and associated costs. One in every three adults is thought to have prediabetes, and 84% of those with prediabetes are unaware they have the disorder. This inconvenient truth is discouraging and has likely led to unnecessary healthcare costs, missed intervention opportunities, and complications for many in the past – yet it underscores the unrealized potential for diabetes and prediabetes prevention that is possible today.
Prediabetes is not only preventable but also reversible with proper management and education. A healthy diet, consistent exercise and weight loss are proven methods that help reverse prediabetes.
Employers who are worried about their employee’s health and interested to learn how to better prevent, or reverse employee prediabetes outcomes will first need to identify individuals who are at risk of developing, or may have already developed, prediabetes and are unaware. Identifying employees who need prediabetes support is difficult without the proper health analytics technology in place but communicating prediabetes information and encouraging proactive prevention measures is a great place to start.
Risk factors that may help identify and communicate with those at risk of prediabetes include, but are not limited to:
- Being 45 years or older
- Having a parent, brother, or sister with type 2 diabetes
- Being physically active less than 3 times a week
- Ever having gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy) or giving birth to a baby who weighed more than 9lb
- Having polycystic ovary syndrome
- Being overweight
On rare occasions serious health complications typically induced by diabetes can occur for those with prediabetes. One third of individuals who have prediabetes have also developed chronic kidney disease (CKD). Both prediabetes and CKD can be managed through proper diet and exercise. Though not as common, heart attacks and strokes are real threats to an individual living with prediabetes – especially in later prediabetes stages.
Improving diet, and limiting sugar and carbohydrate consumption in particular, are a few of the best methods for prediabetes prevention and reversal. Employers can educate their employees on the dangers introduced by prediabetes and provide support that in turn encourages employees to make health-conscious dietary choices. Additionally, employers can invest in resources that help communicate the importance of physical activity to their employees.
Some mitigating factors that help optimize success in improving healthy eating and activity habits are:
- Getting adequate sleep
- Reducing stress
- Addressing any ongoing chronic health issues
Practicing an active lifestyle will improve an individual’s overall health and should have a profound impact on a number of health conditions. However, it is equally important for individuals with prediabetes to understand that physical activity is only a part of proper prediabetes management and that limiting sugars and carbs is nonnegotiable.
From a medicinal standpoint, Metformin is a viable and inexpensive prescription drug that can help lower diabetes risk for those who struggle to manage their prediabetes. According to William H Bestermann Jr. MD, in his blog post, Prediabetes, A Missed Opportunity, “while metformin reduces the risk of prediabetes becoming diabetes by one third, fewer than 4% of prediabetic patients take this medication.”
It is discouraging that such a limited percentage of those with prediabetes are capitalizing on the manageability of their condition and have presumably missed prevention opportunities they can ill-afford to continue missing. Proactive prediabetes management is too important to defer any longer so to get started you can click this link and take a diabetes risk test.
You can also click here to receive a free copy of our Diabetes Facts and Resources guide created by Advanced Plan for Health’s clinical leadership team. It includes a summary of diabetes-related facts as well as insight for diabetes prevention and control.
To learn more about how Advanced Plan for Health’s predictive analytics platform (Poindexter) can leverage data to identify targets in your population for health and wellness education outreach and improved outcomes, contact us here.