Prediabetes: Treat it as an alarm for a lifestyle reset

With exercise, better sleep and weight loss, you can bring your blood sugar level back to normal.

Have you or someone you know been diagnosed with prediabetes? More than 30 percent of Americans have prediabetes, and most don’t even know it. You could be part of that 30 percent.

Today there are 84 million people in the United States with prediabetes. The prefix “pre” means “before,” so it defines what is happening in your body before full-blown type 2 diabetes establishes itself.

The diagnosis of prediabetes should not be taken lightly — it’s a dangerous condition and can have devastating health consequences. It should be considered a wake-up call. It’s a diagnosis that tells you that your body has been having problems for some time.

A prediabetes diagnosis doesn’t mean you will go on to develop type 2 diabetes, but it does increase your chances. The good news is that you can decrease your risk if you are willing to make lifestyle changes to improve your health.

Prediabetes is a metabolic disease that develops gradually over years when someone has insulin resistance, or a lack of insulin production, or both. Oftentimes blood sugar levels are normal, but cells in the body become resistant to the effects of insulin so the pancreas works harder to pump out extra insulin to move sugar out of the blood and into the cells.

For a while this works to keep blood sugars within the normal range, but it’s not a healthy metabolic state to be in. Eventually the beta-cells breakdown, fail and can’t do their job, so blood sugar levels go higher with no mechanism to lower them. This is when prediabetes crosses over to type 2 diabetes — when blood glucose levels are higher than normal in a fasting blood test.

Being inactive and long periods of sitting reduces your insulin sensitivity, while exercise improves it. Movement helps your own insulin to work more effectively for you. The more you move, the better. Get up and move every 30 minutes while at work.

Studies also show that sleep deprivation reduces insulin sensitivity, so good sleep — and enough of it — is key.

What else can you do to halt or reverse this disease? Focus on your diet: Get rid of sugary drinks, sweets, pastries and candy. Eat healthier high-quality carbohydrates instead, like whole wheat, oats and whole grains like barley or quinoa. Add more fruit, vegetables, lentils, peas and beans to your diet.

You should NOT avoid carbohydrates; simply choose healthier ones in smaller amounts. If you are carrying around extra weight, begin taking small steps to lower calories by cutting back on portions, so you can shed 7 to 10 percent of your body weight. That small amount will make a big difference in your metabolic health.

If you’re not overweight, then you can prevent yourself from gaining weight. You don’t have to do this alone — get the support and information you need for lasting changes in your health. Find a registered dietitian nutritionist to help you achieve your goals by going to eatright.org. Enter your ZIP code to find someone near you.

Kim Larson is a registered dietitian nutritionist, board certified health and wellness coach and founder of Total Health. Visit www.totalhealthrd.com and www.facebook.com/totalhealthnutrition for more information. Twitter: @healthrd.

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