Chances are good that if you are, you don’t even know it. That's because as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates, more than one out of three American adults have prediabetes, but 90% aren't even aware they have the condition. As you age, your risk gets even greater. The American Diabetes Association reports one half of all Americans age 65 or older have prediabetes. The good news for your health is that you can take steps now to support active aging and prevent or delay prediabetes from developing into type 2 diabetes.
November is National Diabetes Month, so it's a good time to check out what you can do to reduce your risk with simple, proven lifestyle changes.
Why it's important
Many people haven't heard of prediabetes, and because they haven't been diagnosed with the condition they don't think it's very serious. In fact, you can have prediabetes for years without symptoms as it often goes undetected until you have a major health problem. Health problems occur with prediabetes because your blood sugar levels are higher than normal, putting you at increased risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke. If you develop diabetes, it can affect every major organ in your body. People with diabetes often develop major complications, such as kidney failure, blindness and nerve damage.
How to know if you're at risk
Certain lifestyle and hereditary factors can increase your risk for prediabetes, including:
• Overweight and obesity
• Older age (45+ years old)
• Physical inactivity (physical activity less than three times a week)
• Close family member (parent or sibling) with type 2 diabetes
• Previous diagnosis of gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy)
• Race or ethnicity that is African American, Hispanic/Latino American, Native American, Pacific Islander, and/or Asian American
To find out your risk for prediabetes talk with your doctor.
What you can do right now
The CDC urges Americans to think Prediabetes = Preventdiabetes. The steps for prevention are basic, healthy lifestyle choices.
Step 1: Maintain regular physical activity. Thirty minutes a day, five times a week of brisk walking or a similar activity is recommended.
Step 2: Reduce weight. A modest weight loss of five percent to seven percent (10-14 pounds for a 200-pound person) can help make a difference.
Step 3: Eat better to help lower blood sugar. Healthy eating tips for prediabetes include:
• Eating a variety of foods—particularly whole grains and fruits and vegetables;
• Limiting serving sizes so you don't overeat; and
• Eating regular meals and small snacks.
A registered dietitian nutritionist can help you create a customized meal plan.
Step 4: Start small. Even the best-laid plans can go to waste if you don't know where to start, which is why starting small is so important. Starting small will get you started and give you early wins to help create momentum and healthy habits. One great way to start small with your diet is to replace one unhealthy meal or snack per day with a better choice, like a meal replacement shake or bar designed to help manage blood sugar. Look for diabetes-specific products that can offer these options:
• Are tasty, low in calories and carbohydrates, and perfect to carry on-the-go;
• Have slow-release carbohydrates to help manage blood sugar; and
• Have up to 15 grams of protein to help manage hunger.
Step 5: Find support. The CDC has a National Diabetes Prevention Program to help people make the lifestyle changes needed to prevent or delay type 2 diabetes. Ask your doctor or other healthcare professional for more information about diabetes prevention programs available in your local community and start taking the steps today to stay active, eat healthy and prevent diabetes.
Author: Mary Beth Arensberg, PhD, RDN
Mary Beth Arensberg is director of health policy for Abbott’s nutrition business. For more information and resources on maintaining good nutrition visit the Abbott Nutrition Newsroom.
Note: This information is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified healthcare professional and is not intended as medical advice. It is intended as a sharing of knowledge and information from research. The view expressed here are not necessarily those of the ICAA, we encourage you to make your own health and business decisions based upon your research and in partnership with a qualified professional.