According to the American Diabetes Association, about 86 million adults in the United States had prediabetes in 2012. That means that more people in the U.S. are prediabetic than voted for the president-elect in this month’s election.
Prediabetes is when blood glucose levels are higher than they should be, but not high enough to qualify as diabetes. Having prediabetes puts people at an increased risk for type 2 diabetes.
If you are prediabetic or have risk factors to include a Family history of diabetes, if you had gestational diabetes during pregnancy, or if you are overweight, you can reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by making changes to your lifestyle.
“The first step is to start working on your diet,” said Maj. (Dr.) Hillary Thomas, assistant medical director, Chronic Disease Management, Womack Army Medical Center. “Fifty percent of what you’re eating should be fruit and vegetables. Watch your portion sizes and make sure you’re eating lean meats. Stay away from saturated fats.”
Thomas also said that exercise is key to helping reduce risk. She said that cardiovascular activity is important at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s 30 consecutive minutes or if it’s broken up during the day,” she said. “You can do 15 minutes at lunch and 15 minutes in the evening at home, whatever works best for you and your schedule.”
She said that cardiovascular activity doesn’t have to mean running either. She said walking is fine, as long as it’s done at a brisk pace that leaves you out of breath enough to make it difficult to carry on a conversation.
Karen Robinson, a nurse practitioner in the Chronic Disease Management Clinic, said the symptoms of diabetes often go unnoticed.
“Some of the things to be aware of are excessive thirst, frequent urination, unexplainable weight loss and a pins and needles feeling in the extremities,” said Robinson. “The best way for early detection though is make sure you’re getting routine health screenings and talking about risk factors with your primary care manager.”
Thomas said that if you get a prediabetes or diabetes diagnosis from your PCM, you need to make sure you keep your appointments and get the appropriate lab work done.
“The diagnosis is often a wake-up call and it’s important not to ignore it when it happens,” she said. “Ignoring it increases your chance of complications like nerve damage, kidney disease and increased stroke risk.”
If you have risk factors for diabetes, both Robinson and Thomas recommend scheduling an appointment with your PCM and start the conversation to help reduce your risk.
To learn more or to evaluate your risk of type 2 diabetes, visit www.diabetes.org.