Combating Prediabetes with Awareness
Diabetes is a metabolic disease which is caused by the pancreas not creating enough insulin to help a person process the sugar in their diet. There are a few different types of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes means that your body attacks the insulin producing cells, causing them to stop making it. Type 2 diabetes happens when your body stops effectively using insulin, so the pancreas stops producing as much. Gestational diabetes occurs when a pregnant woman develops high blood sugar levels during pregnancy.
Type 1 diabetes does not yet have a discoverable cause, but Type 2 is known to be caused by a lack of exercise and poor diet. Prediabetes is the body’s state before a full diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes is confirmed, but there are ways to prevent it from occurring. Read on below!
The main cause of prediabetes is a lack of exercise and poor diet. Body weight also plays a major factor in determining your risk for prediabetes. Typically, diabetes will run in a family. You may be more predisposed for a later-in-life diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes if other family members have had it in the past. The reason why you may be feeling different as your body moves into full-blown prediabetes is because your body is failing to produce as much insulin as you need. Insulin in necessary to transport glucose throughout the blood and into the cells, which is how your body maintains its energy level.
There are a few specific symptoms of prediabetes that are easy to spot if you know what to look for. Dark, rough skin patches called acanthosis nigricans often develop around the elbows or knees, and are an undeniable sign of prediabetes. Many people also feel tired, and excessively thirsty. Prediabetes can also cause more frequent urination, and blurry vision. Women who may have prediabetes are also vulnerable to polycystic ovarian syndrome, which will cause irregular periods and fertility problems.
Prediabetes can be detected through a blood test – ideally done twice, to confirm the diagnosis. There are a few different blood tests that doctors use. One is a simple analysis of drawn blood, but the other is called a fasting plasma glucose test and requires that the patient fast for eight hours before taking the test. Another test, called the oral glucose tolerance test, is generally used to confirm the final diagnosis. In an oral glucose tolerance test, the patient’s blood sugar level is tested two hours after a sugary drink is consumed.
When to get checked
Doctors recommend getting yourself checked for prediabetes if you are overweight, or are over the age of 45 years and whose lifestyle includes some of the following factors: being physically inactive, having a family history of diabetes or vascular disease, or elevated blood pressure. Although being predisposed to having prediabetes doesn’t necessarily mean that you will eventually be diagnosed with it, it is important to be aware of the symptoms and proactively manage your health to prevent prediabetes from occurring.
If you are diagnosed with prediabetes, the main risk is that it will eventually develop into Type 2 diabetes, which will require major lifestyle changes just to maintain your life and health. By combating prediabetes with awareness and action, you can lower your risk of Type 2 diabetes. If left untreated, prediabetes can also increase your chances of damaging your organs and nerves, lead to skin infections, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, and strokes. All of these can be avoided by making immediate lifestyle changes. Eating healthier, losing weight, and becoming more active can truly save your life.
Age and other inevitable factors
Age is a huge factor in determining how vulnerable you are to prediabetes. At 45, the risk factors start increasing, but as soon as you hit 65 years old, the risks increase exponentially. While there are many ways that you can lower your risk for prediabetes, there are some things like age, race, and family history that you just can’t change. All you can do is be aware of your predisposition for diabetes, and make healthy lifestyle choices.
One of the first things that doctors recommend if you are worried about your predisposition to prediabetes is to lose weight. Dropping 5-10% of your body weight starting immediately will improve your health and reduce your risk of prediabetes. To prevent prediabetes, doctors recommend working with a nutritionist to get your BMI (body mass index) to below 25. Your nutritionist can pinpoint exactly how many calories your body needs, and work on a meal plan with you to cut down the excess. Extra fat cells, especially in the belly area, can cause the body to become insulin resistant.
Physical activity is hugely important in preventing prediabetes. Being sedentary often leads to people packing on the pounds, which can increase your body’s chance of becoming insulin resistant. Keeping your heart healthy through regular cardiovascular exercise is also hugely important. Exercising for 30 minutes a day, even if it’s just taking a brisk walk around your neighborhood, can help lower your risk for prediabetes. It’s important to remember prediabetes is reversible! Even taking small steps towards a more active lifestyle will help mitigate the damage that has already occurred.
What you should eat
When you make changes to your diet to lower your risk of prediabetes, the first thing you should do is make an effort to limit your fat intake. Focus on eating enough protein and fibre, so that you can manage your calories. Fatty foods are much more calorific than protein-rich or fibrous foods. There are plenty of changes you can make to limit your fat intake while still enjoying the same foods you always have. You should also be eating foods that help keep your blood glucose level steady and in the proper range for your age and body type.
What you shouldn’t eat
To avoid prediabetes, there are many things that you can cut out that will generally improve your diet, but the primary goal should be to focus on eating more sensible portion sizes. Chose servings of lean proteins and whole grains that will fill you up, rather than empty calories that will just leave you hungry in an hour. Avoid sodium-rich food, and try to limit your alcohol intake. Cut out sugary drinks completely. They have no nutritional value, and one single regular can of soda can contain up to 45 grams of carbs.
There are some medications that a doctor may prescribe if your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes is very high. These drugs help your body regulate its glucose level, but it is generally only used in severe situations. Your focus should be on developing a healthy diet and getting plenty of physical activity daily.
Use your knowledge
Now that you know the symptoms and risk factors associated with prediabetes, it’s important to take your health into your own hands and make some positive changes. The CDC estimates that only 7% of people with prediabetes know that they have the condition. Being aware of the risk factors associated with your age, weight, and family history is extremely important. Only you know all the details of your life, so it’s your job to advocate for yourself and get the tests you need.