How to Avoid Prediabetes
84 million Americans, or 1 in 3, have prediabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control, 9 out of 10 people with prediabetes don’t know they have it! Prediabetes puts you at risk for developing Diabetes. Diabetes is a chronic condition that impacts the way the body processes and uses glucose, commonly known as sugar, which is fuel for the body.
Type 2 diabetics have too much glucose circulating in their bloodstream. Insulin, the hormone produced in the pancreas, normally delivers glucose to cells, which is then used as energy. Type 2 diabetes prevents this process from occurring as designed, resulting in too much glucose in the bloodstream. Over time, Type 2 diabetes can cause serious health consequences, like organ failure and even death.
The good news is that Type 2 Diabetes is a disease of lifestyle. While some genetic components may come into play, changes to lifestyle may change the diagnosis for this devastating condition.
Prediabetes means you have higher than normal blood sugar but not high enough to be diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. Prediabetes puts you at great risk of developing diabetes and for cardiovascular disease. While damage to your heart and kidneys may have already started, you still have time to change your path and work towards good health. It is a warning to take steps NOW to change your lifestyle and prevent Diabetes.
You are at great risk of prediabetes if you:
- Are 45 years or older
- Are Black, Hispanic/Latino, American Indian, Asian American, or Pacific islander
- Have a parent or sibling with diabetes
- Are overweight
- Are sedentary
- Have high blood pressure or take medication for blood pressure
- Have low HDL (good) cholesterol and/or high triglycerides
- Had diabetes during pregnancy
Early symptoms of prediabetes include:
- Hunger and fatigue
- Thirst and frequent urination
- Nausea and vomiting
- Low testosterone and erectile disfunction
- Skin problems
- Numbness or tingling of your feet and legs
- Blurred vision
To test for diabetes or prediabetes, your physician will use the A1C test which measures your blood sugar over the last 2 to 3 months. You do not need to fast for this test.
A1C levels are rated:
- Normal less than 5.7%
- Prediabetes 5.7 to 6.4%
- Diabetes 6.5% or higher
The Fasting Plasma Glucose Test is also commonly used. This test is done in the morning after a fast of at least 8 hours:
Blood sugar levels are rated:
- Normal less than 100 mg/dl
- Prediabetes 100-125 ml/dl
- Diabetes 126 ml/dl or higher
According to the American Diabetes Association, prediabetics can lower the risk of developing diabetes by 58% by losing 7% of bodyweight (so losing 17.5 lbs for a 250 lb person) and exercising moderately for 150 minutes a week.
If you have been diagnosed with Prediabetes or worry that you may be headed in that direction, take steps to change your lifestyle and avoid developing diabetes:
- Eat a clean diet. Ditch the processed foods that are high in calories, fat, sugar and sodium and very low in nutrition. These simple carbohydrates include things like cookies, candy, white bread and rice, pastries, pasta, juice and cereal. Reduce or eliminate your intake of red meat. Opt for whole foods that come from the earth like fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains, which are considered complex carbohydrates. Select lean protein sources from plants, white meat chicken or fish. Include healthy fats from nuts and avocados.
- Exercise regularly. Exercise can help your body use insulin more efficiently and lowers your blood sugar for up to 24 hours afterward. Target at least 150 minutes of exercise each week. More is better. Work up to adding some vigorous exercise into your week. Include walking, jogging, swimming, biking, exercise classes ….whatever you enjoy.
- Lose weight. Losing 5-10% of your bodyweight can lower your blood sugar and change your prediabetes diagnosis. Shoot for a waist circumference of 40 inches or less for men and 35 inches of less for women. Belly fat is also indicative of diabetes. Your clean diet and exercise will lend themselves to this step.
- Quit smoking. Smoking causes a wide range of health issues. Add diabetes to the list. Talk to your physician about strategies to quit.
- Improve your sleep. Check for sleep apnea, which has been associated with insulin resistance. Prioritize sleep by improving your sleep hygiene.
- Stay properly hydrated by drinking more water. Water helps regulate blood glucose levels and often replaces high sugar drinks. Target half of your bodyweight in ounces each day.
- Work with a nutritionist, diabetes coach, or health coach to help identify lifestyle improvement areas and to help you stay on track.
Visit your physician yearly to discuss your risk factors for prediabetes, and get your blood glucose tested at least once a year. Take steps now to avoid prediabetes and the life altering disease of diabetes.
by Christy Coughlin Wellness Coach