Prediabetes: An elephant in the room

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November is National Diabetes Month, and it's unfortunate that we need to dedicate an entire month to increasing awareness about this disease. It's estimated that 29 million folks in the United States have diabetes, and even more surprising, 1 out of 4 of us don't even know that we have it.

Individuals develop diabetes because they aren't producing enough of the hormone insulin, and/or have developed a resistance to insulin, such that their cells do not respond to the hormone when it arrives. Obesity has been identified as one factor that increases the cell's resistance to insulin.

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Insulin's job in the body is to direct glucose, the most abundant sugar in foods, into the cells to be used as immediate energy or stored in another form for later use. With diabetes, insulin may be available in the blood but the cells' decreased sensitivity to it interferes with its ability to work properly in the body. The bloodstream ends up becoming flooded with glucose that can't enter the cells for its use. Because of this, many individuals have to take medication to help the insulin work properly and/or inject themselves with insulin to manage their blood glucose levels.

Click through to see pictures of celebrities with diabetes:

Famous people, celebs with Diabetes
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Prediabetes: An elephant in the room

Tom Hanks

Tom Hanks attends "An Evening of SeriousFun Celebrating the Legacy of Paul Newman", hosted by the SeriousFun Children's Network at Avery Fisher Hall on Monday, March 2, 2015, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

Nick Jonas

Nick Jonas performs at BLI Summer Jam 2015 at Nikon at Jones Beach Theater on Saturday, June 13, 2015, in New York. (Photo by Greg Allen/Invision/AP)

Drew Carey

Comedian Drew Carey arrives at the premiere of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment's 'The Wizard Of Oz' 3D And The Grand Opening Of The New TCL Chinese Theatre IMAX on September 15, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Halle Berry

Halle Berry arrives at the 3rd Annual Kaleidoscope Ball on Saturday, May 2, 2015, in Culver City, Calif.(Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)

Paula Deen

In this Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2012 photo, celebrity chef Paula Deen poses for a portrait in New York. Deen recently announced that she has Type 2 diabetes. (AP Photo/Carlo Allegri)

Larry King

Talk show host Larry King attends The Friars Foundation Gala honoring Robert De Niro and Carlos Slim at The Waldorf-Astoria Hotel on Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2014, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

Sherri Shepherd

Television personality Sherri Shepherd attends the 13th Annual Samsung Hope For Children Gala at Cipriani Wall Street on Tuesday, June 10, 2014 in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

Randy Jackson

TV personality Randy Jackson attends the Children Mending Heart's 7th Annual Empathy Rocks Fundraiser on June 14, 2015 in Malibu, California. (Photo by David Buchan/Getty Images)

Billie Jean King

Tennis champion Billie Jean King poses for portraits Thursday, June 4, 2015, in New York. King believes Caitlyn Jenner has given people clarity about transgender issues beyond the progress already seen four decades after they shared the international spotlight as athletes. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Jay Cutler

Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler (6) warms up before an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints Monday, Dec. 15, 2014, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Bret Michaels

Bret Michaels performs during halftime of the Detroit Pistons-Cleveland Cavaliers NBA basketball game in Auburn Hills, Mich., Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Patti LaBelle

Patti LaBelle performs during the National Christmas Tree lighting ceremony at the Ellipse near the White House in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 4, 2014. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Mary Tyler Moore

Mary Tyler Moore accepts the Life Achievement award at the 18th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards on Sunday Jan. 29, 2012 in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Paul Sorvino

Actor Paul Sorvino attends the Food Bank For New York City Can-Do Awards Dinner at Cipriani Wall Street on Tuesday, April 21, 2015, in New York. (Photo by Donald Traill/Invision/AP)

Mike Huckabee

Republican presidential candidate, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee addresses attendees during Rick Scott's Economic Growth Summit in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., Tuesday, June 2, 2015. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)


But there is an even larger elephant in the room. More than a third of Americans, 86 million adults, have prediabetes. These folks are on deck to develop diabetes in the future. Prediabetes is a condition whereby individuals have higher than normal blood glucose levels but not quite high enough to be classified as having diabetes. Unfortunately, individuals with prediabetes not only have a higher risk of developing diabetes but also heart disease and stroke.

Click here for this interactive quiz to see if you have or are at risk for prediabetes.

The good news is that research suggests that those with prediabetes can prevent or delay getting diabetes by as much as 58 percent by losing a modest amount of weight (7 percent of a person's body weight) and moving regularly (walking 2.5 hours weekly).

According to registered dietitian nutritionist Toby Smithson, author of "Diabetes Meal Planning and Nutrition for Dummies" and a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, studies have shown that meeting with a registered dietitian nutrition, who can design an eating plan that meets your needs, reduces both the need for medications and the risk of developing the health complications from diabetes. You can find a RDN who specializes in diabetes on the AND website.

The appointments could be covered by your health insurance. This could be the best way to tackle the elephant in the room.

Copyright 2015 U.S. News & World Report

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