If you have higher than normal blood sugar, chances are you have prediabetes which if left untreated can lead to type 2 diabetes. Dr. Jagdish Khubchandani, MBBS, Ph.D. Professor of Public Health New Mexico State University says, “A little less than a third of adults in the U.S. have prediabetes or will have it in their lifetime, but almost half of the people may not know it due to lack of preventive screening, encounters with healthcare professionals, or lack of awareness and knowledge. People often find out about this condition when they have diabetes, heart attacks, stroke, or serious signs of high blood sugar.” While prediabetes can be serious if left untreated, the good news is you can reverse it. Eat This, Not That! Health talked to medical and health experts who explained how to do so. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You’ve Already Had COVID.
Dr. Khubchandani explains, “Excess sugar consumption is the root cause and is a silent killer. People have been addicted to sugar in the form of candy, soda and pop, cakes, meats, bread, donuts- all seemingly normal components of our diet and meal routines. The solution is simple, but not easy given the high addiction, ubiquitous presence of sugar in our diet, marketing from companies, the relatively lower cost of food items with a lot of sugar, and our tendencies to stay sedentary and stay indoors (especially now, with the pandemic and holidays). Thankfully, these behaviors (using a lot of sugar, being sedentary, sleeping a lot) can be unlearned- it takes time and perseverance. Try to reduce sugar consumption or replace it from your daily routine- add it less and use it less! For example, stop buying soda/pop/beverages, drink more water, start reading food labels for sugar content, add fresh fruits and vegetables, and focus on healthy breakfast and dinner (avoid sugary foods in these meals and add more protein, prime time to do so).”
Dr. Sarah Rettinger, MD, endocrinologist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, CA says, “There are two ways to prevent the progression of preDM to DM2. The first is what we call “Intensive lifestyle change” with the aim of reducing weight by 7 percent This is a behavioral modification program aimed at a low-fat diet and exercise for 150 minutes per week, with the goal of reducing weight by 7%. We would only recommend this in patients who are overweight or obese. The second would be to start metformin, a common diabetes/pre diabetes medication that is excellent for preventing progression of preDM to DM.”
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According to Jill Weisenberger, MS, RDN, CDCES, CHWC, FAND, author of the free guide Can I Eat That with Prediabetes?, “Once people hear their blood sugar is high, they worry about all carbs. We can’t put all foods with carbs in the same category because they have such different effects on our health. Both lentils and lollipops are filled with carbohydrates, but they have almost nothing else in common. So instead of shunning all carbs, pick health-boosting ones like fruits, whole grains, pulses (lentils, beans and peas), vegetables and lowfat yogurt. In fact, some carb-rich foods are especially good for prediabetes. For example, barley has the important fiber called beta-glucan which helps improve insulin sensitivity – something that’s critical for people with prediabetes or type 2 diabetes. Berries are also very good for prediabetes. Researchers have linked berry intake to less risk of type 2 diabetes. Pulses have important types of fiber and resistant starches that can also improve insulin sensitivity.”
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Weisenberger says, “This isn’t news to anyone. Pretty much everybody knows that walking, jogging, biking, etc improve insulin resistance. But what I find most people don’t know is that every single bout of exercise boosts insulin sensitivity for 2 hours to 2 days. So every single time you exercise, you’ve done your body and your blood sugar some good. Even if you don’t exercise regularly, that occasional bout of exercise has effects that last for at least a couple hours.”
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“I get a lot of push back on this from clients, especially female clients, but it’s at least as important as aerobic exercise,” Weisenberger states. “It improves insulin resistance at least as well as aerobic exercise, but it has a surprising benefit too. When we build muscle, we give our blood sugar a bigger bucket to go into. Blood sugar wants to go into muscle after eating, so if we have more muscle, we have more storage space for blood sugar after eating.”
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Dr. Tina Gupta M.B.B.S, BSc, ACE certified fitness nutrition expert at Women’s Health & Aesthetics says, “unlike being overweight or obese, smoking does not directly cause prediabetes. However it does increase the risk of complications from diabetes and causes damage to your nerves, muscles and organs. Quitting smoking would be beneficial for anyone, especially if it occurs on a frequent basis.”
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“A prediabetes diet entails eating a nutrient dense, whole foods diet on a regular basis with less of an emphasis on processed and/or refined carbohydrates,” Dr. Gupta states. “This is because the more unhealthier carbs an individual consumes on a regular, year to year basis, the higher the chance that blood sugars will remain high, in turn leading to the development of prediabetes and eventually type 2 diabetes. So with a higher concentration on eating nutrient dense, less packaged and/or processed foods, the more likely the person will be able to reverse their prediabetes. Nutrient dense, whole foods refers to food that comes in its original form once grown, such as vegetables and fruits, nuts and seeds, beans and lentils. Concentrate on eating non-starchy veggies, low glycemic fruits, nuts/seeds, high fiber foods, and fermented foods (i.e. kefir, miso, tempeh).”
Diana Licalzi Maldonado, MS, RD, CDE, a registered dietitian nutritionist from Reversing T2D explains, “There is also a well-established link between dietary patterns and pre- and type 2 diabetes. The Standard American Diet, which is high in refined carbohydrates, saturated fat, and processed foods, can lead to insulin resistance (when the cells of our body are not able to respond adequately to insulin). Insulin resistance develops when excess lipids (fat) are deposited in cells that aren’t typically meant to hold fat (i.e. our liver and muscle cells). These lipids begin to interfere with insulin signaling. If insulin can’t do its job, then glucose can’t get into our cells and lingers in our blood. As insulin resistance worsens over time, blood glucose levels continue to rise. The diagnostic criteria for having prediabetes is when glucose levels in the blood reach 100-125 mg/dL (in a fasted state) or reach an HbA1c between 5.7-6.4% (HbA1c is a long-term measure of blood glucose).” And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don’t miss these 35 Places You’re Most Likely to Catch COVID.