Just because you leave the doctor’s office empty-handed, it doesn’t mean you have a clean bill of health: Most people with prediabetes aren’t given treatment for the disease, new research from the University of Florida found.
In the study, 34 percent of people ages 45 and older were found to meet the criteria for prediabetes. That means their levels on the A1C test—a measure of your average blood sugar levels over the past two to three months—were between 5.7 and 6.4 percent.
In comparison, a normal reading is below 5.7 percent, and a level of 6.5 percent or higher indicates full-fledged diabetes.
But of the people who had blood sugar levels in the prediabetes range, only 23 percent of them received any kind of treatment for it.
“The doctors may be more focused on treating diabetes, not something that may lead to diabetes,” says study author Arch Mainous, Ph.D.
That’s bad news, because treating prediabetes—either with drugs like metformin or through a weight loss program incorporating healthy eating and exercise—is very successful at preventing or delaying the development of diabetes, he says.
And by preventing diabetes from occurring, you can stave off the serious implications of the disease, including damage to your kidneys, nerves, eyes, and heart, he says.
Current guidelines by the United States Preventive Services Task Force recommend that all adults over 40 who are overweight or obese get their blood sugar tested.
If you fall into that category, ask your doctor for a test. And when the results come in, follow up with him or her—don’t just sit back if your hear “everything is fine.”
Instead, inquire ask about what your levels actually are. If they fall into the prediabetes range, ask your doctor point-blank what you should be doing to get your levels back to normal, says Mainous.
You don’t necessarily need to jump right to meds, either. Your doctor can start you on a diet and exercise plan—a mixture of cardio and resistance training for 150 minutes a week is best—to see if that brings your levels down enough first, he says.