Pay Attention to Prediabetes
How you can prevent developing type 2 diabetes
Diabetes can affect people of all ages. There are two types of diabetes: type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes. People who have type 1 diabetes do not produce insulin in their bodies, which is an important hormone needed to control blood sugar levels. In contrast, people with type 2 diabetes, insulin is produced but does not work as effectively as supposed to due to insulin resistance. Type 2 diabetes is the most common and usually develops in older adults – the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that about 90% of people with diabetes have type 2.
You might have also heard of prediabetes. Prediabetes is when there are higher levels of glucose, but not enough to be diagnosed with diabetes. Millions of older adults are affected by prediabetes, which leads to an increased chance of developing type 2 diabetes and its complication, including heart attack or stroke.
Risk factors for prediabetes are:
• Being overweight
• Being age 45 years or older
• Having a parent or sibling with type 2 diabetes
• Having a sedentary lifestyle (physically less active)
• History of having gestational diabetes or giving birth to a baby who weighed more than nine pounds
• African-American, Hispanic/Latino American, American Indian, Alaska Native Pacific Islander or Asian- American ethnicity
• Have high blood pressure, or take medicine for high blood pressure
• Have low HDL cholesterol (the “good cholesterol”) and/or high triglycerides
These are the same risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes. The good news? Prediabetes can be reversed or prevented by making simple lifestyle changes and healthier choices:
• Avoid eating too many carbohydrate-rich foods. If you have to eat carbohydrates, choose better carbohydrates. Better carbohydrates are food with low glycemic index. Low glycemic index foods cause less glucose excursion after a meal. Examples are non-starchy vegetables like asparagus, broccoli, celery, cucumber, lettuce, peppers, spinach, tomatoes, chickpeas, carrots and mustard green.
• Make healthy choices like having a low-sugar fruit as a snack instead of a packaged and processed snack food. With dairy products, cheese and plain yogurt are better than milk and ice cream. Protein-rich plant food like peanuts, beans, lentils and chickpeas are better than starch grains like rice, spaghetti, sweet potatoes and potatoes. Whole wheat bread is better than white bread.
• Stick to water and do not drink any sugary drinks, including regular sodas and iced tea. Avoid drinking alcohol as it has many calories, and some drinks contain a lot of sugar.
• Find an exercise of your liking to do at least 30 to 45 minutes three to five times a week. The CDC has a National Diabetes Prevention Program that is recommended by the American Diabetes Association to help prevent or delay developing type 2 diabetes. The program reports that participants who lost 5-7% of their body weight and added 150 minutes of exercise per week cut their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by up to 58% (71% for people over 60 years old).
If you are above 45 years of age or have one of the above-mentioned risk factors, ask your primary care physician to check your blood for possible prediabetes. If prediabetes is confirmed, your physician can advise you about a healthy lifestyle, refer you to one of the diabetes prevention programs and/or give medicine if appropriate to prevent it from progressing into diabetes.
November is American Diabetes Month and is an important time to help spread awareness about diabetes and the impact it has on millions of people. To learn more about American Diabetes Month, visit www.diabetes.org.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: www.cdc.gov/diabetes/; www.cdc.gov/diabetes/prevention/
American Diabetes Association: www.diabetes.org/diabetes-risk
Dr. Kamal Bhusal is a clinical assistant professor of endocrinology and associate program director for the Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism Fellowship program at LSU Health Shreveport. He serves on the Diabetes Advisory Board for MLK Health Center in Shreveport, an American Diabetes Association recognized center. The Endocrinology Clinic at Ochsner LSU Health Shreveport can be reached at (318) 626-0505 for more information.