Prediabetes and Diabetes Prevention
Prediabetes is a health problem affecting 1 in 3 adults. Although this condition is very common, prediabetes often flies under the radar because many people do not experience any clear symptoms. As many as 9 out of 10 people are unaware they have the prediabetes and without action can develop type 2 diabetes in as little as 5 years.
The “pre” in prediabetes should not be taken lightly. Damage to our heart, eyes, blood vessels and kidneys may begin years before developing full blown diabetes. Prediabetes occurs when your body experiences high levels of glucose (sugar) in the blood for long periods of time which causes the insulin response to weaken. Insulin is a hormone that acts as a key to get glucose into the cell for energy. If our cells are not responding to insulin, then glucose will remain in our blood and glucose levels will continue to rise. Your doctor can determine if you have prediabetes by performing a fasting blood glucose test or a glycated hemoglobin (A1C) test. Having a fasting blood sugar level between 100 and 125, or an A1C level between 5.7% and 6.4% is considered prediabetes.
The good news is prediabetes can be reversed. Lifestyle changes can be very effective for treating prediabetes. These changes include weight loss, exercise, and a healthy diet.
One of the leading risk factors for type 2 diabetes is carrying excess weight. Obesity, which is defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher can increase your risk for developing type 2 diabetes by as much as 6 times. If you are overweight or obese, just a modest weight loss of 7 to 10 percent of your current weight can cut your risk of developing diabetes in half. For someone who weighs 200 pounds, this would be a 14 to 20 pound weight loss.
Regular exercise can improve your blood sugar control and help you manage your weight. Include a combination of both aerobic and strength training exercises in your weekly exercise plan. Aerobic exercise helps burn glucose and strength training helps build muscles that use glucose. Aim to get at least 150 minutes of exercise per week. Many people find that 30 minutes of exercise 5 days per week is a doable plan.
Diet changes that can help improve blood sugar control are 1) Limiting sugar and refined carbohydrates 2) reducing saturated fat intake and 3) following a consistent meal pattern. Too much sugar and saturated fat in the diet can weaken the insulin response. Reduce intake of sweets and sugary beverages. Instead, choose natural healthy carbohydrate foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and peas. These carbohydrate foods are rich in fiber and will not spike blood sugar like refined carbohydrates from sweets, sugary beverages, white bread, white rice and white pasta. Replace foods high in saturated fat such as fatty meat, full fat dairy and butter with plant based fats from nuts, olives and avocados. Lastly, avoid skipping meals or eating only one large meal per day. These behaviors make the body work harder to digest food and can also lead to insulin resistance. Instead, eat consistently every 3 to 4 hours. For example, a consistent meal pattern may look like breakfast at 8:00 am, lunch at 12:00 pm, snack at 3:00 pm and supper at 6:00 pm.
Type 2 diabetes does not have to be your destiny. Be proactive and discuss with your doctor any risk factors you may have and what important lifestyle changes you should make to manage your blood sugars and ultimately prevent diabetes. Learn more about diabetes here.