How to prevent diabetes!

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Prediabetes A Growing Problem

Did you know that one in three Marylanders has what’s known as prediabetes? Having prediabetes means your blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes.

Don’t let the “pre” in prediabetes fool you. Prediabetes can lead to heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes, the most common form of diabetes. Prediabetes is preventable. It can often be reversed through making changes in how you live.

Talk with your doctor to find out if you have prediabetes. Your doctor can check your A1C with a blood test that measures your average blood sugar level over the past three months. You can also get checked at a community health center or at a health fair.

As a diabetes educator, I often hear people with prediabetes say things like, “I feel good. I don’t take any pills. I’m able to eat what I want and do what I want, so what’s the problem?”

The problem is that diabetes develops over time. If you are diagnosed with prediabetes and do not make any lifestyle changes, then you likely have five years or less until you develop type 2 diabetes, which is a serious health condition. People with type 2 diabetes are at risk of having a stroke or heart attack, developing heart disease and kidney failure, and losing fingers, toes and legs. Prediabetes is not something to play around with!

Having diabetes also affects your wallet. It is an expensive disease. It means more of your money goes to paying for your medical bills and medications.

Who Is at Risk— Diabetes is a growing problem, especially in Baltimore City. African Americans and Hispanics are at a higher risk for developing diabetes. Other things that put you at risk include:

•If you are over the age of 45

•If you have a desk job, sit a lot or are not active

•If your mother, father, brother or sister has or had type 2 diabetes

•If you are overweight

•If you are a woman who had a baby who weighed over nine pounds

•If you are a woman who had gestational diabetes while pregnant

The good news is that diabetes doesn’t have to be your destiny. We can prevent it, but we have to pay attention to the warning signs. You may find that you are often thirsty, tired or need to urinate more often. You may lose weight or have dry, itchy skin. Some people have no symptoms at all.

When you have prediabetes, it is very important to go to the doctor and get a yearly screening for diabetes. Your doctor can tell you if you are progressing from year to year, and may encourage you to make lifestyle changes.

Prevention Is Priceless

For people with prediabetes, the three keys to preventing yourself from developing full-blown diabetes are to 1) lose weight; 2) get active; and 3) eat better.

Losing five to 10 percent of your body weight can make a huge difference in your health. The magic number is seven percent— it is not that much! For some people, this could be a mere 15 or 30 pounds.

The next thing is to get active. Aim for 150 minutes of exercise per week. That’s roughly 20 minutes every day, or 30 minutes five days a week. Exercise can be doing something fun. It doesn’t have to mean joining a gym or training for a marathon. It can mean taking a daily walk or doing something you enjoy such as roller-skating, dancing or playing a sport.

The final step is to make sure you are eating well. Cut back on the soda. Eat more fruits and vegetables.

Free Diabetes Prevention Help Is Available— Free or low-cost diabetes prevention programs are available to Marylanders who have been diagnosed with prediabetes or type 2 diabetes. Enrolling in a program gives you access to a team of diabetes experts who can help you get on track and stay on track to prevent this disease. A diabetes prevention program can help you avoid complications because it is hard to reel them back once you have them.

Angela Ginn-Meadow, RD, LDN, CDE, is a senior diabetes education coordinator at the University of Maryland Center for Diabetes & Endocrinology at the University of Maryland Medical Center Midtown Campus, 827 Linden Ave. To reach her office, call: 410-328-8402.