Diabetes is a chronic disease that affects your body’s ability to process glucose. It’s rapidly becoming an epidemic in the United States. According to the CDC’s National Diabetes Statistics Report for 2022, an estimated 37.3 million Americans, or 11.3% of the population, have some form of the disease, with about 8.6 million people having the condition but going undiagnosed.
Primary care physician Dr. John Lewis and our team at Umbrella HealthCare in Phoenix, Arizona, provide diagnoses and treatment for all manner of acute and chronic illnesses, including diabetes. As November is National Diabetes Month, the team wants to address prediabetes, a common precursor to diabetes, and explain how you can reverse it to restore your health.
Your body breaks down the complex carbohydrates you consume into the simple sugar glucose, which it releases into the bloodstream. Rising levels signal the beta cells in your pancreas to produce and release the hormone insulin, whose function is to transport the glucose into the cells so they can use it for energy.
When you have diabetes, though, your body doesn’t produce enough insulin (type 1) or it becomes unable to respond to it (type 2), so the sugar remains in your bloodstream. That can produce serious complications, including heart disease, stroke, nerve damage, vision loss, lower-limb amputation, and kidney disease.
Type 2 diabetes is the predominant form, with about 90-95% of diabetics affected, and it often develops due to lifestyle factors such as lack of exercise, an unhealthy diet, and excess weight. That makes it the most preventable form of the disease.
Type 2 develops over the course of many years and is usually diagnosed in adults, though the numbers are rising among children and teens due to poor diet and lack of exercise. Because diabetes doesn’t produce many symptoms until it’s become advanced, it’s important to get your blood sugar tested regularly, especially if you’re at risk.
Prediabetes is the stage along the diabetes spectrum in which blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but they’re not high enough to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes. Approximately 96 million American adults — about one-third — have prediabetes, but more than 80% of those aren’t aware they have it. Prediabetes puts you at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, as well as heart disease and stroke.
The good news is that if you have prediabetes, making lifestyle changes can help you reverse the problem before it becomes entrenched.
There are a number of lifestyle changes you can make that decrease your risk for developing type 2 diabetes.
A lot of people don’t know what healthy choices are, but your doctor can help. He can put you in touch with a nutritionist to learn about calories, vitamins, which foods are good choices, and which ones aren’t.
A nutritionist can also discuss how to access healthy foods and how to read and understand nutrition labels. This is especially important if you’re in a low-income or marginalized community; studies show that these areas have the highest diabetes rates.
Obesity (defined as a body mass index over 30) is a major risk factor for insulin resistance, when your cells stop responding to insulin’s effects, and resistance is the first major step toward developing type 2 diabetes.
Losing weight is a long-haul process, but it’s worth it. Studies show you can reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by as much as 58% when you lose just 5%-7% of your weight and exercise at least 150 minutes per week.
Moving your body moves your blood sugar numbers in the right direction, too. The American Diabetes Association recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise every week, which works out to about 30 minutes a day, five days a week. If it’s too much to do all at once, you can break up your sessions into smaller portions. The important part is to get your body moving.
Sleep is essential for good health, and that’s true if you want to reverse prediabetes, as well.
Studies show that your levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, should be low at 3:00 a.m. If it’s high, it can negatively impact your blood sugar.
If you work the night shift, or if you’re prone to staying awake all night, you’re going to need to put in extra effort to get enough good-quality sleep to keep your body healthy.
Want more tips for reversing prediabetes, or need a blood sugar check to see if you’re at risk? Umbrella HealthCare can help. Give us a call at 623-242-1389 to set up a consultation with Dr. Lewis, or book an appointment online with us today.