Are you one of the almost 80 million Americans who have been diagnosed with pre-diabetes? If so, consider it a warning sign. This is your last chance to make some changes in your diet and lifestyle in order to prevent or at least slow down the development of diabetes.
Most people who develop Type 2 diabetes start out with pre-diabetes, also known as impaired fasting blood sugar. Fasting blood sugar levels are elevated, between 100 and 125mg/dl, but not high enough to be classified as diabetes. While many individuals with diabetes experience symptoms such as excessive thirst, frequent desire to urinate, blurred vision and feeling tired, these symptoms are rarely reported in those with pre-diabetes. Even though you may be feeling fine, it’s important to note that people with pre-diabetes are 50 percent more likely to have a stroke or heart attack than people with normal blood sugar readings.
Other risk factors
In addition to impaired fasting blood sugar, being overweight and having a family history of diabetes also increase your risk. Women who have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes or polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) are also at higher risk of developing diabetes, as are individuals with high blood pressure, high triglycerides, and a low HDL or good cholesterol.
Take steps now!
If you have pre-diabetes, the best treatment is to eat less and move more. Research studies have shown that even a modest weight loss of 5-10 percent of your body weight, along with 30 minutes of physical activity most days of the week, can help prevent diabetes. If the thought of launching into a diet and exercise program is overwhelming, focus instead on working toward smaller goals each week.
Try some of these suggestions :
- Keep a detailed food and activity journal. This can help identify areas in your diet and exercise you would like to change (and remember: if you don’t want to see it on your journal, don’t put it in your mouth!), and it can also provide positive reinforcement for healthy behaviors.
- Make your snacks count. Include healthy snacks between meals to keep your energy level up and help prevent hunger, so you don’t overeat at mealtime. Good choices include Greek yogurt with fresh berries, peanut butter on a slice of whole wheat bread, and raw veggies with bean dip.
- Eliminate as many sweets as possible. Sweets, sugary drinks, and even fruit juices and Gatorade, contribute “empty calories,” which make it hard to lose weight. They are also sources of refined or simple carbohydrates, which raise your blood sugar quickly. If you can eliminate just 100 calories from these foods and drinks every day, you will lose TEN POUNDS in a year!
- Try to be active for at least 150 minutes each week. Although this one sounds scary, the key is to spread out your exercise over the week (remember that journal?). The more you move, the better your insulin works to lower your blood sugar, so ideally, try to be active most days. Walk briskly for 30 minutes five times per week, swim for one hour each weekend day and walk for 15 minutes two evenings, or push the lawn mower for one hour and play softball two evenings…you get the idea. The goal is to use your muscles, increase your heart rate and break a sweat.
- If you need help, motivation, or more information on ways to prevent diabetes, ask your primary care physician about making an appointment with a nutritionist.
Anne Danahy, MS RD has been a Nutritionist with Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates for the past 15 years, and she currently works as the “Virtual Nutritionist." Her professional interests include weight management, heart disease, and women’s nutritional issues. When she isn’t working, you can usually find her in the kitchen testing recipes that are healthy AND delicious.