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How To Deal With Prediabetes Symptoms

People who have prediabetes symptoms are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes. It can be reversed with health-conscious lifestyle changes.

A woman is deep in thought while holding a doughnut in one hand and an apple in the other hand.

You’ve heard of diabetes, but do you know what prediabetes symptoms are? Prediabetes is a condition that needs proper care since symptoms are easy to miss. If you take a blood test that shows you have elevated blood sugar levels – but not high enough for a diabetes diagnosis – you have a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes, stroke, and heart disease.

Despite the condition’s name, prediabetes doesn’t always lead to diabetes. Think of it as your chance to prevent diabetes.  

Find out if you have prediabetes symptoms and some early steps to prevent the condition from worsening with lasting lifestyle changes.

Prediabetes vs. Diabetes

A piece of paper with a checklist, three diabetes test tubes, two syringes and some other objects on a green background.
You must take a blood test to check for prediabetes symptoms.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), prediabetes is when blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not enough to be considered diabetes.

Similarly, diabetes is a chronic metabolic disease characterised by elevated blood sugar levels. However, some people were born with a dysfunctional pancreas that produces little to no insulin — the hormone that enables the body to metabolise sugar for energy. People with this condition have type 1 diabetes. 

Prediabetes symptoms develop over time due to many factors, such as a sedentary lifestyle and obesity. In some cases, people whose parents or siblings are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes have a higher risk of developing prediabetes. Patients with this type are resistant to insulin, or their bodies can’t make enough of the hormone. 

To determine if you have prediabetes or diabetes, you need to undergo a blood test. You have diabetes if: 

  1. Your blood sugar level is greater than 7 mmol/L after eight hours of fasting.
  2. Your blood sugar level is higher than 11 mmol/L two hours after drinking 75 grams of glucose water.
  3. Your HbA1C level (amount of glucose in the haemoglobin) is higher than 6.3%.  

A blood sugar level between 5.6 and 6.9 mmol/L after fasting, or 5.6% to 6.2%, indicates prediabetes.

How TCM views Diabetes and Prediabetes  

From the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) point of view, four factors can deplete yin (passive energy), trigger too much Fire, and ultimately cause diabetes:  

  • An unhealthy diet: Consuming alcohol and greasy, sweet, and spicy food can exhaust the Spleen and produce Damp Heat.  
  • A fluctuating emotional state: Unstable mental health can disturb the flow of the qi (vital life energy), inducing internal Fire in the body.  
  • Congenital disabilities: Some people are born with energy imbalances and disruptions that increase the risk of diabetes and prediabetes.  
  • Excessive sexual activity: TCM believes this can reduce Kidney essence, rendering it incapable of providing yin to the body. 

Prediabetes in Malaysia 

Malaysia has the highest cases of diabetes in Asia. Two in 10 Malaysians live with the disease. And for every person with diabetes, there are three people who show prediabetes symptoms.

In 2022, a team of researchers published a review on the prevalence of type 2 diabetes in Malaysia. They discovered that among 103,063 participants, the prevalence of diabetes was 14.39%. The researchers also found that the prevalence of prediabetes among these individuals was 11.62%. 

Risk Factors for Prediabetes  

You might be at risk for prediabetes if you are: 

  1. Overweight
  2. Forty-five years of age or older
  3. Related to a diabetic family member 
  4. Physically inactive
  5. A woman who has given birth to a baby weighing more than 4 kilograms
  6. A woman who has had gestational diabetes when pregnant 

Race and ethnicity also play a part. Studies on the prevalence of diabetes and prediabetes in Malaysia revealed that Indians are the most affected, followed by Malays, Chinese, and Bumiputeras. 

Prediabetes Symptoms

An Asian man in a suit eating five plates of food in a restaurant
A noticeable spike in appetite can be a warning sign of prediabetes.

People can go years without noticing any prediabetes symptoms as it’s difficult to detect.

If you possess two or more risk factors and notice an increase in urination frequency, constant dry mouth, blurred vision, a numbing sensation in your limbs, and darkened skin on certain areas of your body, it’s best to consult a doctor as soon as possible.

Other symptoms that prediabetics commonly experience include a lowered immune system, wounds that are difficult to heal, weakness, unsatisfied hunger, and unexplained weight loss.

What You Can Do to Prevent Prediabetes from Worsening 

Unlike diabetes, prediabetes can often be reversed before it becomes more serious. Prevention methods include lifestyle changes and natural treatments. 

Natural supplements and remedies 

In TCM, diabetes is due to a Yin Deficiency or a Dry-Heat body constitution. Several natural ingredients have been scientifically proven to improve blood sugar control. 

TCM physician Ignatius Ooi has used herbs like lingzhi mushroom (lingzhi, 灵芝), Chinese yam (shan yao, 山药), Anemarrhena rizhome (zhi mu, 知母), Rehmannia glutinosa (sheng di huang, 生地黄), Salvia miltiorrhiza (dan shen, 丹参), astragalus (huang qi, 黄芪), and ginseng (ren shen, 人蔘) to help patients manage prediabetes symptoms. Consult a licensed TCM practitioner before consuming these herbs. 

TCM recommends the Mediterranean diet, focusing on the consumption of beans, fruits, vegetables and whole grains, or the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet to improve prediabetes symptoms. DASH is usually meant for people with hypertension but can help with diabetes as well. It primarily consists of lower calories, zero sugar and the consumption of non-starchy vegetables. 

Some cooling and yin-nourishing foods to consume to reduce prediabetes symptoms include tofu, tomatoes, string beans, and millet porridge with pumpkin. 

Drinking mai dong (麦冬) tea can help too. A study investigating the effects of mai dong on insulin resistance showed that it’s beneficial in managing gestational diabetes and reducing blood glucose levels.

Include acupressure massage 

TCM also incorporates acupuncture and acupressure massage to lower blood sugar, boost insulin production, and ease insulin resistance. The most commonly used acupoints to improve the symptoms of prediabetes or diabetes are san yin jiao (SP6, 三阴交), zhong wan (CV12, 中脘), shen shu (BL23, 肾俞), di ji (SP8, 地机), and tai xi (KI3, 太溪). You can massage these points at home too. 

Prediabetes symptoms are warning signs. If you spot them, you should pay more attention to your health and prevent the symptoms from worsening. Share this article with your family and friends if you think they might be at risk.

This is an adaptation of an article, “什么是糖尿病?”, which first appeared on the Health123 website.

References

  1. World Health Organization. 2019. Diabetes. [online] [Accessed on 9 September 2022]
  2. National Center for Biotechnology Information. 2022. Prevalence of type-2 diabetes and prediabetes in Malaysia: A systematic review and meta-analysis. [online] [Accessed on 9 September 2022]
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2019. About Prediabetes and Type 2 Diabetes. [online] [Accessed on 9 September 2022]
  4. CDC. 2022. Fiber: The Carb That Helps You Manage Diabetes. [online] [Accessed on 12 September 2022]
  5. National Library of Medicine. 2021. Safety and Efficacy of Dietary Supplements for Diabetes. [online] [Accessed on 12 September 2022]
  6. FreeMalaysiaToday. 2021. Prediabetes: what is it and why is it serious? [online] [Accessed on 12 September 2022]

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