PREDIABETES: LOSING SENSITIVITY TO INSULIN
Proactive health changes to avoid diabetes
Look at the list below and check off any that apply to you.
• Discolored neck, knuckles, knees, elbows or armpits
• Overweight, with a waist size larger than 35 inches (women) or 40 inches (men)
• Highly processed diet
• Very little activity
• Lack of quality sleep
• Over age 45
• African-American, Hispanic, Pacific Islander, Asian-American, Native American origin
• Hypertension and/or high cholesterol
• Family history of diabetes or history of gestational diabetes
If you checked one or more of the items on this list, you should talk to your doctor about prediabetes. These symptoms are present in the 88 million Americans who have this condition, which can lead to type 2 diabetes, heart disease, nerve damage and kidney damage.
Prediabetes occurs when your cells lose their sensitivity to insulin. Insulin is a hormone produced in the pancreas that allows glucose to enter muscle cells to be used for energy.
When cells no longer respond to insulin, the glucose continues to circulate in your bloodstream, elevating blood sugar levels. This can cause damage throughout your body. Of course, prediabetes doesn’t mean you actually have diabetes – yet – but it does mean you are on the path to it.
So, is there anything you can do? You bet! You can be proactive about your health and make changes to avoid diabetes. One of the best ways to fight prediabetes and get your blood sugar back in the normal range is through a coordinated exercise plan. When you do that and make smart food choices, too, you are taking control of something that can quickly take control of you. And if you are overweight, it’s also a great strategy for losing weight.
Cardio and weight training force your body to use stored glucose. When all the glucose in the muscles has been used, the body starts pulling the glucose from the bloodstream to fuel your working muscles. Cardio helps the body process blood sugar levels more efficiently. HIIT (high-intensity interval training) workouts improve pancreatic function. Strength training allows for more glucose storage in muscles as they grow in size and strength. And even better, the effects exercise has on decreasing your blood sugar levels last from 24 to 48 hours, depending on type and intensity.
If you have already been diagnosed with prediabetes by your doctor, you need to do these things in conjunction with your exercise plan:
Check your blood sugar before, during and after exercise to gauge how different types of exercise affect your numbers.
Exercise one to three hours after eating, when sugar levels are higher; this will help prevent an episode of hypoglycemia (lower than normal blood sugar).
Stay hydrated with water, and keep fruit juice on hand in case sugar levels drop too low.
Be consistent. Prediabetes can be a scary diagnosis, but it can be managed or reversed when you make taking charge of your health a true lifestyle choice. Take the advice of your doctor about your health, and consult a registered dietitian to develop a sensible eating plan that combines proteins, fats and carbohydrates in the proper proportions. And consider a fitness membership that will keep you accountable where exercise specialists can support you and help you achieve your goals.
Courtney Hertzog is an exercise specialist with WK Fitness & Wellness Centers.