In 2011, I was diagnosed as prediabetic and I was devastated! Growing up I watch my aunt poke and stick herself several times a day, and the thought of going through that paralyzed me. Prediabetes: Expectations vs. Reality is an article I wrote to discuss the realities of living with prediabetes, and to provide information and resources for individuals living with this condition.
Prediabetes is a condition in which your blood sugar level is high but not high enough to be identified as diabetes. Prediabetes affects 38% of adults in the United States, but at least 22% of those people have not been diagnosed.
In addition to type 2 diabetes, prediabetes can result in other serious health conditions such as blindness, kidney failure, Strokes, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. Type 2 diabetes patients may lose their toes, feet, or legs. However, prediabetes does not have to progress to type 2 diabetes. You can stop both of them. But there is so much false information about prediabetes that it can be difficult to distinguish between misinformation and the reality about prediabetes.
While false information about prediabetes can be dangerous, being well-informed can change your life for the better. Here are some most common myths and facts about prediabetes that you should be aware of to make the best health decisions possible.
Most Common False Misconceptions About Prediabetes
Eating Sugar Causes Prediabetes
Sugar consumption does not cause diabetes. On the other hand, a sugary diet can lead to obesity and overweight, both of which are risk factors for prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. This is a common misconception, and it’s easy to see why: blood sugar levels are crucial in diabetes. Sugar, on the other hand, is not a contributing factor. The story is always complicated: there appears to be a link between regular soda consumption and the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Even after controlling for energy intake and body mass index (BMI), a large study published in 2013 found that drinking more soda increases the risk of developing the disease. According to the study, other drinks, such as fruit juices, did not have this association with prediabetes.
If You Have Prediabetes, You will Almost Certainly Develop Diabetes
According to statistics, most people with prediabetes eventually develop diabetes, but the devil is in the details. If you do nothing to treat your prediabetes, you will almost certainly develop type 2 diabetes. However, if you manage your prediabetes with healthy lifestyle choices and sometimes medication, it can cut your risk by more than 50%.
Even delaying the onset of type 2 diabetes, which can lead to diabetes-related complications, is a worthwhile investment.
Only The Elderly Are at Risk of Developing Diabetes
Insulin resistance, which leads to high blood sugar and diabetes, worsens with age, making it a risk factor, but it can also lead to prediabetes and diabetes in young adults. Prediabetes or diabetes affects more than one-fourth of adults aged 18 to 44 and more than two-thirds of adults aged 65 and up.
Nowadays, age 65 does not make you “elderly,” but it is still worthwhile to take care of yourself so that the 10, 20, 30, or even more years you may have left are as enjoyable as possible. The following are the most common risk factors that don’t necessarily cause prediabetes but can make you susceptible.
- Have a waist larger than 40 inches in circumference for men and 35 inches in circumference for women.
- Consume large amounts of red and processed meat, sugary beverages, and little fruit, vegetables, olive oil, whole grains, nuts, or whole grains.
- Over the age of 45.
- You are black, indigenous, Latino, or Pacific Islander.
- Overweight or obese, particularly if you have excess weight around your midsection (belly fat).
- Have a high cholesterol level, a high triglyceride level, a low HDL level, and a high LDL level.
- Avoid physical activity.
- Have gestational diabetes.
- Delivered a baby weighing more than 9 pounds.
- Diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome.
- Have a sleep disorder, such as sleep apnea, or work rotating shifts or nights.
Here is a very informative video from the CDC about Prediabetes:
The Only Effective Remedy for Prediabetes is Medication
You may be on medication, “metformin” (Glucophage), to enhance your body’s responsiveness to insulin. However, metformin is prescribed to less than 1% of people with prediabetes. Lifestyle changes are the most effective way to treat or reverse prediabetes.
Diet, exercise, and weight loss are the “big three” lifestyle changes. A smoking cessation programmer is also critical for smokers. Some changes, such as stress reduction, may appear minor, but they can significantly impact many aspects of life and should not be overlooked.
Metformin was found to be less beneficial than physical activity and weight loss in preventing type 2 diabetes in a key study. Even if you have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, it is not too late to make healthy lifestyle changes that can have a significant impact.
Your efforts to live a healthier lifestyle will pay off by making it easier to manage your health and diabetes. The good news is that diabetes prevention measures are similar to those used to prevent heart disease. When you treat one, you treat the other as well.
To prevent and manage prediabetes, follow these steps:
- Lose weight by eating a healthy diet. Losing 5% to 10% of your body weight can make a significant difference.
- Choose an activity that you enjoy, such as walking. Attempt to have at least 30 minutes of exercise five days a week. Start with a shorter time and work your way up to a half-hour if necessary. Before you go any further, consult your doctor.
- Quit smoking.
- Control your blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
- If you have a high risk of diabetes, take a medication like metformin (Glucophage) to lower your blood sugar (only with your doctor’s advice).
People with Prediabetes Can’t Eat Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates are a broad category of foods that have a variety of effects on diabetes risk, insulin resistance, and blood. Common sense suggests that it won’t hurt to limit the consumption of chips, potato chips, bagels, ice cream, cookies, and fried rice.
Science agrees, indicating that a high intake of foods high in added sugars and/or refined starches is linked to an increased risk of diabetes. Likewise, the opposite is true for higher-fiber, more nutrient-dense carbohydrate sources. Oatmeal, bread and whole-wheat pasta, fresh fruits, brown rice, and sweet potatoes are all foods associated with a reduced risk of diabetes. Portion control is the key here.
If It Contains No Carbohydrates, It Has No Effect On Blood Sugar
It goes something like this: during digestion, carbohydrates break down into glucose, entering the bloodstream and raising blood sugar. As a result, foods that are low in carbs (such as those high in protein and fat) do not affect blood sugar, according to this logic.
The truth is that what you eat does matter, even if it has no direct effect on blood sugar. For example, protein slows digestion and contributes to preventing blood sugar spikes. While healthy fats can help improve insulin resistance and thus reduce the risk of prediabetes and Diabetes, unhealthy fats can exacerbate insulin resistance. Fatty red meat, fried foods, and processed meats are all foods that may increase your risk of developing diabetes.
A Lot of Weight Loss Is a Must to Reduce Prediabetes Risk
If the thought of going on a strict diet regime for the rest of your life to lose 50 or 100 pounds is keeping you from acting now, you might find comfort in the fact that losing just a few pounds can make a significant difference in diabetes risk. Losing just 5 to 7% of your body weight, or about 10 lbs., can cut your prediabetes risk in half.
You Don’t Have Prediabetes If You Don’t Have Any Symptoms
Prediabetes goes unnoticed until diagnosed because it is almost always asymptomatic. Fatigue, blurred vision, excessive thirst, and weight loss are classic diabetes symptoms that usually appear after the disease progresses.
Tests for blood sugar (blood glucose) are the only way to determine if you have prediabetes or Diabetes. You can get a good idea of whether you’re at risk for prediabetes or diabetes by taking a short, five-question risk test in one minute.
My Family Doesn’t Have Prediabetes So I Won’t Get It
It’s true that having a diabetic parent or sibling increases your risk of developing diabetes. In fact, prediabetes, type 1, and type 2 diabetes are linked to a family history of diabetes. Many people with diabetes, on the other hand, have no close relatives who have the disease.
Prediabetes is a condition in which your blood glucose, or blood sugar, levels are elevated but not high enough to be classified as diabetes. Prediabetes increases your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. However, by modifying your lifestyle now, you may be able to delay or prevent type 2 diabetes.
Some people can reverse their prediabetes and avoid or delay the progression to diabetes by committing to and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Even people with diabetes can slow down the progression of their disease and avoid many complications by leading a healthy lifestyle. The amount of damage that can be avoided is usually determined by the lifestyle changes made and how early they are implemented.