Impaired glucose tolerance

What is impaired glucose tolerance?

If you have impaired glucose tolerance, your blood glucose is raised beyond the normal range but it is not so high that you have diabetes. Normally the hormone insulin is responsible for transferring glucose (sugar) from the blood stream into the cells for further usage or storage until needed, but in diabetes and impaired glucose tolerance either the cells are resistant to insulin so that it does not work properly or there is insufficient insulin. If you have impaired glucose tolerance you are at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. 1 to 3 out of 4 people with impaired glucose tolerance will develop diabetes within 10 years. You are also at risk of developing cardiovascular disease (heart disease,peripheral vascular disease and stroke). If impaired glucose tolerance is treated, it can help to prevent the development of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The most effective treatment is lifestyle changes including eating a healthy balanced diet, losing weight if you are overweight, and doing regular physical activity.

How is impaired glucose tolerance diagnosed?

People with impaired glucose tolerance usually have no symptoms. You are often found to have impaired glucosetolerance after blood tests taken for another reason show that you have a raised blood glucose level. Sometimes,your doctor may suggest that a screening blood test should be taken to check your blood glucose because they are worried that you may have some risk factors for impaired glucose tolerance or diabetes. For example, if you have high cholesterol levels, are overweight, have high blood pressure, or if you have had a heart attack or stroke,your doctor may suggest that you have a blood test to check your blood glucose.

The usual screening blood test is HbA1c- a level of 42-47 mmol/mol indicates impaired glucose tolerance and levels of 48 and above indicate diabetes.

Use this tool to estimate your risk and whether testing for diabetes/ impaired glucose tolerance would be advisable:

How should impaired glucose tolerance be treated?

The most important thing is to adopt a healthy lifestyle, control any other risk factors and to have an annual check to monitor the blood sugar. In brief the advice would be to:

  • Eat a balanced diet

  • Lose weight if you are overweight

  • Exercise regularly

  • Stop smoking

  • Drink alcohol only within sensible limits

  • Work with your doctor to control any other risk factors eg. Blood pressure, cholesterol

  • Have an annual check for HbA1c (blood sugar)

See the links for further information and see the sections regarding healthy lifestyle.

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