11/07/2014 03:05 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The Power of a Prefix: Three Letters That Could Save Your Life

Pre-diabetes, pre-cancerous, pre-hypertension. Notice a theme? "Pre" often precedes a dangerous or scary-sounding health condition. And while these three letters often are overshadowed by the more daunting word that follows them, the "pre" should be a red flag. In fact, if taken seriously and acted upon, it could save your life.

Fortunately, a "pre" diagnosis means you haven't yet met the diagnostic criteria for the condition that follows it; however, it can also offer a false sense of security. "Pre" can be a powerful wake up call. It typically means you can still take action about that other troubling word that follows it. As November is Diabetes Awareness Month, the "pre" I want to focus on is prediabetes. The "pre" can and should be a call to action to prevent diabetes. Here are three simple steps to help get you started:


P -- Prevention. Prediabetes refers to the beginning stage of diabetes, or the precursor stage. The body is not making enough insulin or cannot use normal amounts of insulin (a hormone that regulates the amount of sugar in your blood) properly. Blood sugar levels are not normal, but not quite at the point of having diabetes. These blood sugar levels are high enough to have a negative ripple effect throughout the body. Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney disease, and prediabetes can damage the kidneys (and other organs in the body) well before it becomes full-blown diabetes. Prevention includes following an exercise program and eating a healthy diet to maintain a healthy weight.

R -- Reversal. With a diagnosis of prediabetes, it is still possible to reverse the symptoms by making changes to your diet and exercise. Therefore, if the prevention strategy fails, you may have to more aggressively lose the weight, make exercise a priority and adopt a better diet in order to reverse the prediabetes and prevent it from turning into diabetes.

E -- Evaluation. With prediabetes, people often do not experience or recognize any physical signs of the disease, which may include frequent urination, and excessive hunger and thirst. These symptoms can also indicate other health issues so regular check-ups are very important. Because high blood sugar levels can damage the kidneys even before being clinically diagnosed with diabetes, screening is critical. The most important thing you can do to protect your kidneys if you have prediabetes or diabetes is to get your urine tested, since the earliest sign of kidney disease is protein in the urine. Those at risk should be tested on an annual basis. Major risk factors for kidney disease include diabetes (and prediabetes), high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, family history of kidney failure and being age 60 or older. If you're at risk, during your next physical ask your healthcare practitioner about checking your urine for protein or come to one of the National Kidney Foundation's free KEEP Healthy screenings held in cities and communities across the country.

So next time you see "pre," don't dismiss these three little letters, as this PREfix could save your life. For more information about prediabetes, diabetes and the kidneys, visit the National Kidney Foundation at