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Don’t let the pre in prediabetes fool you

by KATHY HUBBARD Contributing Writer
| October 21, 2020 1:00 AM

Prediabetes. It’s real. It’s common. It’s reversible. Remember that when your primary care provider tells you that you have it. But, also, don’t let the “pre” fool you. If left untreated the prefix goes away.

“Prediabetes means you have a higher than normal blood sugar level,” Mayo Clinic explains. “It’s not high enough to be considered type 2 diabetes yet, but without lifestyle changes, adults and children with prediabetes are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes.”

Mayo says that although prediabetes usually has no symptoms, long-term damage to your heart, blood vessels and kidneys may already be starting. The good news? Progression from prediabetes to type 2 diabetes is not inevitable.

The exact cause of prediabetes is not known, but family history and genetics play an important part. “A lack of regular physical activity and being overweight with excess fat around your abdomen also seem to be important factors,” Mayo says.

What’s happening in your body? You know that when food is digested, sugar enters your bloodstream and in order for the sugar to move to your body’s cells requires the hormone insulin. Insulin comes from the pancreas.

“As insulin circulates, it allows sugar to enter your cells and lowers the amount of sugar in your blood. When your blood sugar level starts to drop, the pancreas slows down the secretion of insulin into the blood,” Mayo explains.

When you have prediabetes this process doesn’t work so well. Instead of fueling your cells, sugar builds up in your bloodstream. Eventually your pancreas won’t keep up, leading to type 2 diabetes. A simple blood test will tell you if you have elevated blood sugar.

Diet and exercise. Two words no one wants to hear me nagging about. But losing just a small amount of weight can make the difference between developing diabetes and lowering blood sugar numbers to the normal range.

“A small amount of weight loss means around five to seven percent of your body weight, just 10 to 14 pounds for a 200-pound person,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. “Regular activity means getting at least 150 minutes a week of brisk walking or a similar activity. That’s just 30 minutes a day, five days a week.”

The CDC says to think about prediabetes as “preventdiabetes” not as a certain precursor to the disease. An article on the Cleveland Clinic’s website says that your goal should be to reduce your carbohydrate intake by choosing more complex carbs and burning them off.

Dietitian Julia Zumpano, RD, LD explains that “rethinking your diet to reduce the risk of diabetes doesn’t mean giving up the foods you love. It means eating less of them. The first rule is to cut down on simple carbohydrates like sugar, a quick-release carb.”

Cut back on sweetened drinks. Since your body needs to be hydrated, swap that soda, fruit juice or sweet tea with a glass of water. Be careful of the sneaky calories, like those in specialty coffee drinks.

“Next look at foods that have added sugar,” Zumpano says. “Jams and jellies; syrups; agave; honey; candy, and baked goods. Then cross off empty ‘white foods’ like chips, pretzels, crackers, white rice and white bread.”

She says to swap those “white” foods for whole-grain breads and pastas, brown rice and wild rice and to experiment with other grains such as quinoa, farro, barley and buckwheat.

I know we all get busy and grabbing a fast food burger is the quickest, cheapest way to keep on a tight schedule. Well, eat the burger, dump the bun and order a side salad. Or, keep nuts and sunflower seeds on hand to stave off a hunger attack until you get home to a proper meal.

“Load up on vegetables, particularly non-starch veggies. The fiber in vegetables and legumes will help you feel full and satisfied,” Zumpano says. And, she says that eating lean protein at every meal can help you reduce the urge to snack.

And, lastly, consider your meal times. If you skip meals, you’re apt to overeat. Meals eaten late at night will elevate your blood sugar so make lunch your largest meal of the day and eat nothing for three hours before bed.

Kathy Hubbard is a member of Bonner General Health Foundation Advisory Council. She can be reached at kathyleehubbard@yahoo.com.

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Kathy Hubbard