You may already know that diabetes ranks as one of the most common chronic illnesses in the United States, but did you know that as many as nine in ten diabetes cases are preventable? That’s right: Type 2 diabetes, which accounts for up to 95% of all diabetes diagnoses, can often be prevented through a series of simple and readily achievable lifestyle changes.
Unfortunately, as many of the 28 million or so Americans who already have type 2 diabetes can attest, the window of opportunity for prevention starts to shrink quickly once your blood sugar rises to prediabetic levels. As November is National Diabetes Awareness Month, it’s a great time to learn more.
Although being diagnosed with prediabetes can certainly be scary, it can be empowering, too. Rather than viewing your condition as a transition into type 2 diabetes, see it for what it truly is — a vital (and final) chance to restore healthy blood sugar levels and prevent type 2 diabetes. Here’s what you should know.
Prediabetes, the main precursor stage for type 2 diabetes, is exceedingly common in the US, affecting some 84 million Americans, or more than one in three adults. While this statistic may be worrisome enough, it’s even more alarming to consider the fact that 90% of people with prediabetes don’t even know they have it.
Type 1 diabetes, which usually emerges during childhood, occurs when your pancreas stops producing insulin, the hormone that helps dietary sugars enter your body cells where they’re converted into energy. This form of the disease has no precursor stage and can’t be prevented.
Type 2 diabetes, the kind that’s most common and largely preventable, develops when your pancreas can’t produce enough insulin to keep up with demand or when your cells become insulin resistant, meaning they no longer respond normally to insulin.
Having prediabetes means that your blood sugar levels are elevated beyond what’s considered healthy, but they’re not yet high enough for you to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
Taking steps to reverse prediabetes
Luckily, most cases of prediabetes can be totally reversed through targeted lifestyle changes. The following health improvements can help you prevent full-blown diabetes, or delay its onset:
If you’re overweight, losing a few pounds is one of the most important steps you can take toward improving your blood sugar levels.
If that seems overwhelming, don’t stress too much; you don’t even need to attain your ideal body weight to gain important health benefits — simply dropping 5% of your body weight may be enough to drop your blood sugar levels and reserve your condition.
A little bit of math can help you put your personal weight loss goals into perspective. If you weigh 240 pounds, for example, you’d only need to lose 12 pounds to shed 5% of your body weight.
Get regular exercise
The human body is made to move, and most people feel better when they do. As a vital part of any healthy lifestyle, regular exercise is essential for preventing full-blown diabetes for anyone who’s been diagnosed with prediabetes.
Although you want to aim to get at least 30 minutes of moderately intense exercise most days of the week, you can fit it in however it works best for you. Some people get their 30 minutes a day simply by taking a brisk 10-minute walk after each meal.
Eat a healthy diet
A healthy diet is one that’s centered on fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds, whole grains, lean proteins, and heart-healthy, unsaturated fats. It also limits or excludes highly processed foods, foods that contain trans fats, and foods that are rich in added sugars.
What you choose to drink is just as important as the food you put on your plate — whenever possible, opt for water (plain or sparkling) or unsweetened beverages like plain tea, or coffee. Steer clear of alcohol, sports and energy drinks, fruit juice, and any type of soda.
Protecting your long-term health
Don’t let a prediabetes diagnosis fill you with fear — instead, pay attention to this invaluable wake-up call and find out what you can do to walk your health back from the proverbial edge.
Here at Downtown Medical Group in Union Square, San Francisco, our primary care team is dedicated to empowering our patients with the knowledge, tools, and support they need to prevent chronic disease and preserve their long-term health, and we can help you, too.
If you’re ready to reverse prediabetes and get on with a healthier life, call our San Francisco office today at (415) 362-7177 or request an appointment using the online booking tool.