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Most people begin the new year off with a resolution to get more physical activity and to eat right. To kick off the new year’s resolutions right, this week is Sugar Awareness Week.
Sugar is Americans biggest area of weakness when it comes to diet. We never know when we’re consuming too much sugar. And that has lead to a diabetes epidemic. More than 30 million Americans are living with diabetes, according to the CDC.
But a more striking trend is the number of people at risk for diabetes, a condition known as prediabetes.
Doctors can basically predict diabetes based on blood glucose levels. Because of that, prediabetes has grown to affect over 84 million Americans in
What are the symptoms of prediabetes and what causes it?
The exact cause of prediabetes isn't clear, but it begins with insulin resistance. This occurs when the pancreas is making enough insulin, but the body is unable to use it to absorb glucose from the blood.
Eventually, this leads to an improper production of insulin and will continue to elevate blood glucose levels.
The difficulty with prediabetes is that it is asymptomatic. That means you’ll very rarely exhibit any symptoms you’d be able to recognize. But, there are physical and physiological profiles that fit prediabetes.
The profile of someone who might have prediabetes is: overweight, low to no exercise, and a diet rich in complex carbohydrates and sugar. Some other “symptoms” or risk factors include:
- Over the age of 45
- Family history of diabetes
But, these symptoms are not the only warning signs of prediabetes. There are people outside of these parameters that can be diagnosed, and it can affect both children and adults.
The only tell-tale sign of prediabetes is blood glucose levels are consistently elevated. And this is only something your doctor will be able to tell you with an A1C test.
But, this condition is reversible by certain lifestyle changes, including limiting sugar in your diet.
What are the risks of being diagnosed with prediabetes?
Prediabetes can cause high blood pressure, low levels of "good cholesterol", and high triglycerides in the blood.
However, the most serious complication is letting it progress to Type 2 diabetes. If you do not take your diagnosis seriously and strive to make reversing prediabetes your new lifestyle, you are at risk for:
- Heart disease
- Kidney damage
- Early death
Is reversing prediabetes possible?
It is important for those at risk of prediabetes to have their blood glucose checked regularly by their doctor. If diagnosed, some lifestyle changes can aid in reversing prediabetes.
- Lose 5% to 7% of your body weight. For a 200lb person, this would equal 10-14lbs.
- Get active. The CDC recommends 150 minutes of exercise per week. That's a little over 20 minutes per day.
- Change your diet. Generally exercise only accounts for 25% of weight loss, the other 75% is through diet changes. If too much sugar is what caused your prediabetes, then it’s fair game to say cutting the sugar will help.
Weight loss is achievable through both the exercise recommendations and dietary changes. In your diet, include low-fat meat and dairy, increase your fruits and vegetables, and decrease processed foods.
What can you eat if you have prediabetes?
If you're already living prediabetes, and you want to make the right dietary choices, talk to your doctor about what’s best for you. There is plenty of advice out there for what to eat and what to avoid for those living with diabetes. But the general rules are:
- Increase your intake of low fat proteins. Avoid fatty meats like bacon and stick to lean cuts of beef, chicken, and greek yogurt.
- Increase fruits and vegetables. Be careful with this, as most fruits and vegetables have lots sugar and carbohydrates in them. The greener the better, like spinach, broccoli, and bell peppers. Avoid tropical fruits like mango and pineapple as these are extremely high in sugar.
- Remove added sugars and processed foods. Yes, that means the sugar you add to your coffee, and those salad dressings masquerading as healthy. Avoid white bread, and other processed foods like chips and cereal bars. Strive for foods that don’t come with an ingredients label (as those are most likely real foods).
How long does it take to reverse prediabetes?
There is no set window of time for reversing prediabetes, and there is no time limit either. If you get a diagnosis, it’s okay if it takes you 2 years to change
As long as you’re making healthy diet and exercise choices, you’ll get there eventually.
But, reversing prediabetes take does not happen overnight. The A1C test that your doctor will give you to test your prediabetes is in 3-month windows.
Be prepared to go into this journey knowing it will take a minimum of 3 months to see any changes in your A1C test.
Know your family history and your risk. Get checked regularly by your doctor. If caught early, reversing prediabetes is possible. Simply make healthy changes that will prevent more serious health issues in the future.