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Danielle VenHuizen

Danielle VenHuizen, MS, RD, CLT is a Registered Dietitian who helps her clients achieve health and vitality through food, not pharmaceuticals. She specializes in working with food sensitivities, Diabetes, Cardiovascular health, Digestive Disorders, and healthy pregnancies. For more expert health adv...

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Health & Fitness

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05/10/2017 12:36am
What is Pre-Diabetes?

Most of us have heard plenty about Type 2 Diabetes. It is a
serious condition causing abnormal elevations in blood glucose levels. Type 2
Diabetes now affects over 29 million Americans and is costing the healthcare
system over $300 billion annually.
The cause of Type 2 Diabetes is multifactorial. A high BMI
with an unhealthy diet is often the main culprit, but genetics may play a role
as well. Over time, diabetes leads to a
host of other diseases, which is where the most considerable health damage is
done. These include conditions such as neuropathies, heart disease, stroke,
infections, and poor wound healing.
In terms of diagnosis, your doctor will sound the diabetes
warning bell if you have an HbA1c above 6.5 and a fasting blood sugar over
. Treatment often begins with drugs (Metformin is usually the first
option) and diet and lifestyle recommendations.
But…..now more frequently we are hearing about what is
termed Pre-Diabetes. Yikes,
another type of diabetes? Well, sort of, but not exactly. Pre-diabetes is
basically the beginning stages of blood sugar irregularities. It is a critical point where we can catch
people before they become full diabetic and in many cases even reverse the
progression. It is important that we all
get a better understanding of this condition so we can combat the rising rates
and healthcare costs of diabetes. To that end let’s review the definition of pre-diabetes,
the associated health risks, and effective preventative measures.

We already reviewed the diagnostic criteria for diabetes.
For pre-diabetes, the ranges are just slightly lower. If your fasting blood
sugar is running anywhere from 100-125 and your A1c comes back anywhere from
5.7 to 6.4
, you will likely be labeled as pre-diabetic. This puts you at
significant risk for diabetes within the next 4-10 years unless steps are taken
to return your blood sugar to an ideal range.
This is where I would ask, if you happen to have them on
hand or online, to go check your labs. Seriously, go check them! See
where your fasting blood glucose is at and determine if you’ve had a recent
A1c. The reason being? Many doctors are not diagnosing pre-diabetes. Studies
have shown we have an under-diagnosis problem in this country when it comes to
pre-diabetes. I’ve seen many clients in my office with pre-diabetic numbers and
yet no one told them they were pre-diabetic. So yes, go check.
It is so valuable to know this information because
pre-diabetes is EASY to treat with
diet and lifestyle change. The studies show that diet and lifestyle are the
number one way to reduce blood sugar numbers in pre-diabetic patients. Once you
progress to full diabetes the chance of returning to normal blood glucose is
much, much harder. NOW is the time
to take action and correct.
If you are pre-diabetic and want to take steps now to avoid
becoming diabietc, here are a few of the researched ways to get those numbers
back under control.
Not surprisingly, diet of course is the primary area to
address. From the research we see that that reducing carbohydrates helps
immensely, as does decreasing overall calorie intake such that weight loss
occurs. When diet and weight loss are tackled together, blood sugar begins
going in the right direction as well. What kind of diet you ask? Multiple
studies show the Mediterranean diet is a very helpful roadmap for an overall
healthy diet. Thankfully multiple books, cookbooks, websites, and blogs have
been devoted to this way of eating. Another similar approach is the
anti-inflammatory diet. In both cases, think fruits, veggies, lean protein
(especially fish), nuts, seeds and legumes…..you get the idea.
As alluded to, weight loss is extremely important in
normalizing blood glucose levels. In many studies they have found weight loss
to be the most important factor in reducing diabetes risk. The theory is that
being overweight increases inflammation in the body. Once the weight comes off
and the inflammation subsides, blood glucose begins to return to normal. Of
course diet is always interwoven with weight loss, so likely the diet plus the
decrease in weight is working together. Whatever the cause, include modest
weight loss in your plan and you should see results.
Naturally we cannot talk about diet and weight loss without
including exercise. Exercise helps support weight loss which we know improves
blood glucose. Apart from helping with the weight, exercise also helps improve
insulin sensitivity and increase metabolism, all of which help us clear sugar
from the bloodstream more efficiently. It also supports a healthy heart and
improves circulation, both of which are negatively impacted by high blood
In some cases, drugs are employed to help in the
pre-diabetic state. If diet and lifestyle changes just aren’t working, or maybe
you are at a place where you cannot implement these changes, doctors may
prescribe drugs such as Metformin to support healthy blood glucose levels and
slow the progression towards diabetes. Of course diet and lifestyle change
remains paramount components, but drugs can often work in conjunction with
other treatments when necessary.
As you are likely well aware, there are many supplements on
the market for diabetes. They are often marketed for pre-diabetes as well. Some
of the ones you may have heard of include cinnamon, alpha lipoic acid, chromium
and Omega 3’s. All of these have shown some promise in various studies
conducted. While they can help support improved glycemic control, remember that
diet and lifestyle changes are always the most important. Never rely on
supplements as your primary means of blood glucose control. They show modest results at best. Like
medications, they can be helpful in conjunction with changes in diet, exercise
and weight control.
Hopefully this review gave you a quick glimpse into
pre-diabetes and a better understanding of where you stand in terms of blood
sugar health. Like I mentioned, always review your labs and be keep tabs of
where you are at. While doctors are very knowledgeable, sometimes they miss
these early stages of disease where small changes now can lead to big decreases
in risk later. Take control of your health and be on top of your numbers.

Danielle VenHuizen, MS, RD, CLT is a
Registered Dietitian who helps her clients achieve health and vitality through
food, not pharmaceuticals. She specializes in working with food sensitivities,
Diabetes, Cardiovascular health, Digestive Disorders, and healthy pregnancies.
This article was originally published at https://www.foodsense.net/what-is-pre-diabetes/

and has been syndicated with permission. For more expert health advice visit
her blog at


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