Diabetes is one of the most common chronic diseases in the United States. In addition to the millions who live with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, Around 84 million people in the US, or more than 1 in 3 adults, have prediabetes, the precursor for Type 2 diabetes. Many of these people don’t even know their health is at risk.
This sounds like an epidemic — and it is — but it doesn’t have to be. As many as 90% of diabetes cases are preventable. You see, around 95% of people who have diabetes have Type 2 diabetes, which is often avoidable with a few simple and sustainable lifestyle changes.
However, once your blood sugar levels reach full-blown Type 2 diabetes levels, your window for prevention closes rapidly.
Our team of expert health care providers here at MS Family Medicine Health Care in Queens and Nassau Gardens, New York City, want to help you reduce your risk of Type 2 diabetes. November is National Diabetes Month, so let’s explore the facts about prediabetes and how you can protect your health.
The two most common types of diabetes are Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes develops when your pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin that is needed to convert glucose into energy. It’s due to an autoimmune condition that damages your insulin-producing cells and emerges during childhood.
Type 2 diabetes, on the other hand, typically emerges later in life. It develops when your body stops using insulin correctly, and your blood sugar levels increase. While your genetics and family history contribute to your risk of Type 2 diabetes, your lifestyle plays a significant role in your chances of getting the disease.
Type 2 diabetes usually develops slowly. When your glucose levels are consistently elevated but haven’t reached the diagnostic criteria for diabetes, you have prediabetes.
The tricky thing about prediabetes and Type 2 diabetes is that they don’t cause noticeable symptoms until their later stages. This is why many prediabetic people don’t know their health is at risk.
In most cases, you can reverse prediabetes with targeted lifestyle changes. The following health improvements can help you prevent full-blown diabetes:
A healthy diet includes fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, whole grains, and lean proteins like chicken, turkey, and fish. It also limits or excludes processed foods that include unhealthy amounts of sugar, fat, and salt.
Don’t forget that your drink choices are as important as the foods you eat. Whenever possible, choose water (plain or sparkling) or unsweetened beverages like plain tea or coffee.
It’s best to stay away from or strictly limit alcohol, sports and energy drinks, fruit juice, and any type of soda — even the diet varieties.
You should aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise every day. This could be a brisk walk around the neighborhood after dinner, a bike ride with your kids, or swimming. You can even break up your exercise with three 10-minute walks every day. The trick is to find a physical activity that you enjoy and want to do.
Exercise helps your body use insulin to convert glucose into energy, making it essential for preventing full-blown diabetes for anyone who has been diagnosed with prediabetes. Combined with healthy diet choices, daily exercise can also help you lose weight, which brings us to our last suggestion.
If you’re overweight, losing a few pounds is one of the most important steps you can take toward improving your blood sugar levels. Excess adipose tissue interferes with a multitude of body functions, including insulin production and use.
Weight loss often seems overwhelming, but making small, sustainable changes to your life can help you drop weight. You don’t even have to lose a lot — simply dropping 5% of your body weight can make a big difference to your blood sugar levels and diabetes risk.
For example, if you weigh 200 pounds, you need to lose only 10 pounds to achieve a 5% body weight loss.
Prediabetes doesn’t mean that full-blown diabetes is inevitable. Look at it as an opportunity to take control of your health and make some lifestyle changes. You can make some minor lifestyle adjustments today to protect your health for the rest of your life.
If you’re concerned about your risk of prediabetes or diabetes, call our office or schedule an appointment online today for testing and personalized treatment to restore and protect your health.