Take a look at these statistics from the National Institutes of Health:
- The number of people diagnosed with diabetes has risen from 1.5 million in 1958 to 18.8 million in 2010
- It is estimated that 79 million adults aged 20 and older have prediabetes. Prediabetes is a condition where blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be called diabetes.
- Studies have shown that by losing weight and increasing physical activity people can prevent or delay prediabetes from progressing to diabetes. [/checklist]
Why wait to get diagnosed diabetes to evaluate your risk? Let’s talk about some of the risk factors that may increase risk for diabetes:
- High intake of grains, sugars, or processed foods: Fact or fiction: grains raise the blood sugar as much as table sugar. This can actually be FACT in some cases. Research has shown that whole wheat bread can cause blood sugar to rise as much, if not more, than table sugar. This raises the question: are healthy whole grains really all that healthy? I believe the answer to the question is really quite complicated. One of my mentors during residency, Dr. William Davis, wrote a great book on this topic that I recommend to patients often, Wheat Belly.
- Lack of physical activity: exercise has been associated with increasing metabolic rate, building lean mass, maintaining a healthy weight, decreasing stress and improving mood. What’s not to love about exercise?! Even a little dose will do in this category, as research has shown that walking daily for 30 minutes may be just enough. You don’t have to run marathons or become a gym rat to get your exercise in. Just make sure to do intentional physical activity, most days of the week. The best form of exercise is this: something you will do!
- Weight may or may not be “normal” range: I have seen many “normal” weight individuals diagnosed with diabetes or prediabetes in my practice. I have seen many overweight individuals with no laboratory signs of diabetes. Research has identified a category of metabolically obese, normal-weight (MONW) individuals. These individuals are very common in the general population and they probably represent one end of the spectrum of people with the insulin resistance syndrome. Weight is not always the best indicator of risk. Blood pressure, markers of blood sugar control, certain skin changes, cholesterol profile, family history, and a diet diary are all the things that help to determine risk.
The great news about diabetes and prediabetes is that these are two conditions that can actually be REVERSED with diet, exercise and supportive supplementation. I love doing this work in my practice because it is so rewarding to see lives change as a result of making simple changes. My friend, Denise, recently published a book about her diabetes experience. I would encourage anyone interested in learning more to pick it up: The Virgin Diabetic.