The Path to Prediabetes Prevention
One in three American adults (that’s 86 million people!) have prediabetes. Without intervention, 15% to 30% of people with this condition will develop Type 2 diabetes within 5 years. Prediabetes is diagnosed when your blood glucose level is higher than normal but not high enough to be diabetes. Being overweight or having a genetic predisposition to diabetes can put one at risk for getting prediabetes. Losing at least 5 to 10 percent of your weight can prevent or delay diabetes and even reverse prediabetes.
Let’s talk science! Your pancreas is the organ in the body that produces insulin. Insulin is the hormone that controls your blood sugar. Insulin enters the bloodstream to scoop up the sugar and deliver it to your muscle cells to be used for energy. When your pancreas begins to peter out during the day (often in response to a diet too high in refined sugars and carbs, or extra body weight), you will begin to see excess sugar in your blood. This can lead to prediabetes, and then to diabetes, if left untreated.
Below are some factors that put people in a higher risk category than others for developing prediabetes and type 2 diabetes:
You are overweight.
You are 45 years of age or older.
Your parent or sibling has type 2 diabetes.
You are physically active fewer than 3 times per week.
You ever gave birth to a baby that weighed more than 9 pounds.
You ever had diabetes while pregnant (gestational diabetes).
Race and ethnicity also affect your risk. African Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, American Indians, Pacific Islanders, and some Asian Americans are at a high risk for Type 2 diabetes.
Years ago, doctors were only able to evaluate diabetes by measuring daily blood sugars. Then researchers developed the hemoglobin AIC test, also referred to as an A1C reading, HbA1C, or glycohemoglobin test. This resultant number gives the doctor more insight into how well the body is metabolizing sugars throughout the day, and measures your average blood glucose for the past 2 to 3 months. Hemoglobin is the protein in red blood cells and glucose attaches (glycates) to it. The more glucose in your blood, the higher the percentage of A1C in the blood level as the hemoglobin gets glycated. The advantage of the A1C test is that you don't have to fast or drink anything for the test.
The following are parameters in which health practitioners diagnose prediabetes.
An A1C of 5.7%- 6.4%
Fasting blood glucose of 100-125 mg/dl
An Oral Glucose Tolerance test of 140-199 mg/dl
Note that diabetes is diagnosed at an A1C of greater than or equal to 6.5%, or two consecutive fasting blood sugar readings of 126 mg/dl, or a reading over 200 mg/dl.
A large research study called the Diabetes Prevention Program shows that you can lower your risk for type 2 diabetes by 58% by:
Losing 7% of your body weight (or 15 pounds if you weigh 200 pounds)
Exercising moderately (such as swimming, cycling or brisk walking) 150 minutes a week (30 minutes a day, five days a week).
Nutrition plays a major role in the treatment plan for prediabetes. Choosing the right mix of foods can improve blood sugars into normal levels. Meet with a registered dietitian for a personalized treatment plan if your doctor has diagnosed you with prediabetes or diabetes.