Diabetes has become an overwhelming public health concern. Almost 16 million Americans have Type 2 diabetes. It is estimated that 6.2 million of these individuals do not know that they have diabetes.
In 2007, 1.6 million new cases of diabetes were diagnosed in people aged 20 years or older. One in three Americans born in 2000 will develop diabetes in his or her lifetime.
Pre-diabetes, the condition that exists before Type 2 diabetes develops, affects 57 million people. You may have pre-diabetes if a fasting blood glucose is between 100 and 125 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl), a two-hour glucose tolerance test is 140-199, or your hemoglobin A1c is 5.7-6.4%. This may also be called impaired fasting glucose, hyperglycemia or abnormal glucose value.
No matter what you call it, a fasting blood glucose between 100 and 125 is cause for concern – and action. Pre-diabetes is the warning that Type 2 diabetes is developing.
Preventing Type 2 diabetes
The Diabetes Prevention Program was a major research project that looked at what helps prevent Type 2 diabetes, once an elevated fasting blood glucose is diagnosed. The project, in part, followed overweight people who began exercising and losing weight.
Of the overweight individuals who started exercising 30 minutes/day for at least 5 days/week and lost 7% of their weight, 58% did not develop Type 2 diabetes. Of the overweight individuals who lost 10% or more of their weight, 90% did not develop Type 2 diabetes.
Weight loss – combined with exercise – is the single most important factor that will stop the progression toward Type 2 diabetes in overweight individuals.
Can you think of one change you can make today to help yourself lose weight? Cutting out 250 extra calories per day will help you to lose ½ pound each week. This might involve eliminating a bedtime snack or simply not eating a second helping at dinnertime. Keep a food record for one week. Look at your eating trends.
Are you skipping meals? Don’t! Skipping meals often leads to overeating at other meals or snacks.
Take a look at your beverages. Do you drink most of your calories by adding cream and sugar to your coffee or tea? Do you drink regular soda pop? A 20-ounce soda pop may contain 250 calories. One less per day may help you to lose that ½ pound a week.
Glucose gets taken into the body through muscles. Anytime you exercise, you help your muscles to more easily get the glucose out of the blood and into your body where it is used for energy. If you are cleared for exercise by your doctor, start slowly increasing the timing, intensity, or distance that you exercise. Set a goal of 30 minutes (minimum) of exercise 5 out of 7 days each week. The 30 minutes does not need to be done all at one time. Three 10-minute walks are beneficial, too!
Stopping the progression of diabetes
If you have pre-diabetes, Type 2 diabetes is not inevitable. You can lose weight and start to exercise to stop the progression of diabetes. Talk to your doctor at your next visit about your goals to prevent Type 2 diabetes. For help with weight loss or other lifestyle changes to prevent Type 2 diabetes, ask your doctor for a referral to a registered dietitian.