Preventing and Detecting Prediabetes
In the U.S., as many as one out of three people aged 20 and older has prediabetes.
Prediabetes is the condition of having higher than normal blood sugar, but not yet high enough for a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes. It’s a red flag indicating lifestyle changes need to be made.
Unfortunately, 90 percent of those with prediabetes are unaware of it, and continue following lifestyle habits that lead to diabetes, higher risk of cardiovascular disease, and the possibility of nerve, kidney, and eye damage.
Prevention, Treatment Essentials
We need to inform ourselves about prediabetes, and make sure our children and grandchildren steer clear of this silent, stealth threat to our health.
The essentials of prediabetes prevention are:
- Stay Active. Regular exercise promotes weight loss and lowers blood sugar. Our greatest benefit comes from fitness routines that include both aerobic activities and resistance or weight training.
- Eat Whole Grains. It’s best to keep carb intake to a minimum, and most of the carbohydrates we consume should be made with whole grains—those that have not been processed or refined.
- Get Plenty of Fiber. Most people in the U.S. do not get the recommended daily amount of dietary fiber. However, fiber is essential for good digestion and elimination. Eating fiber rich foods facilitates weight loss by helping us feel full and satisfied, improves blood sugar control, and reduces our risk of heart disease. Whole fruits, veggies, whole grains, nuts, and seeds are excellent fiber sources.
- Maintain a Healthy Weight. In one research study, participants who lost just seven percent of their body weight, and exercised regularly, lowered their diabetes risk by nearly 60 percent.
- Eat Whole, Fresh Foods. Avoid fad or restrictive diets. The single best thing we can do for our health is to prepare most of our meals with a wide variety of fresh, whole ingredients.
We can also help normalize our blood sugar by getting enough sun exposure to maintain healthy vitamin D levels, getting adequate hours of sleep each night, cooking with healthy fats and oils, and replenishing our gut bacteria by eating fermented foods, or taking a high-quality probiotic supplement.
Because people with prediabetes typically experience no symptoms, and because this condition has become so prevalent, many of us should consider having our glucose level checked.
The American Diabetes Association recommends glucose screenings for:
- Those 45 and older, who are overweight.
- Those younger than 45, overweight, and with additional risk factors for diabetes such as a family history of the disease, sedentary lifestyle, high blood pressure, and/or high triglycerides.
Regardless of age or weight, anyone who consumes a diet of primarily processed foods or drinks sugary beverages should consider getting their blood glucose checked; also women with a history of PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) or gestational diabetes, since they are at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Screening is crucial since 15 to 30 percent of those who develop prediabetes will, if they do not make changes, progress to type 2 diabetes within five years. The great news is that a more active lifestyle and wiser food choices can prevent this progression from occurring.