Data suggests that one in six people in India have prediabetes, a prevalence rate of around 14%, and most go undiagnosed until it’s too late. Prediabetes is a concerning health condition where blood glucose levels are higher than normal. But they are not high enough yet to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. However, prediabetes increases your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and strokes.
Blood sugar, diabetes, glucose, all these terms are becoming a part of everyday vocabulary. Obesity is continuously rising, and with it comes many devastating consequences, most of which can result from unawareness. Everything is necessary: what you eat, what you drink, how you exercise! We have seen a sharp increase in diseases related to obesity in India, and the typical Indian is no stranger to the need for nutrition and health.
One way to prevent these health issues is by taking accountability for your health. HealthifyPro is a program based on state-of-the-art technology with the potential to help prevent or manage prediabetes. A complete package that not only helps an individual track their blood glucose but also enables them to communicate in real-time with professional coaches who are always available for advice. It comes fully equipped with a calorie counter that tracks calories as you eat them or burn them and a continuous glucose monitor that syncs to your device and helps you understand what is good for you and what you should not consume. So if your blood sugar goes even a tinge higher than usual for your body type, you are immediately alerted and armed with the tools to battle for your health!
The Role of Insulin
Insulin and blood glucose levels play a huge role in one’s health, specifically metabolic health. The pancreas secretes insulin, and it helps allow glucose to enter your cells and create energy. We all need energy! Now, glucose, in turn, comes from the nutrition an individual receives, be it food or drinks. However, in some instances, like fasting, the liver also creates glucose to provide energy to the body. Therefore, anything an individual eats has an impact on their system. So if you are eating and your blood glucose levels rise above the expected range, the pancreas releases insulin to bring your glucose levels back down within the target range.
Insulin resistance is when your body cells cannot absorb glucose properly because they don’t respond well to insulin. Due to this, the pancreas begins creating more and more insulin for glucose absorption by your cells. However, blood sugar levels will likely stay within the target range until your pancreas cannot secrete enough insulin to battle your body’s response to insulin.
Prediabetes usually occurs when individuals have insulin resistance. In such a case, the pancreas cannot make enough insulin to stabilise blood glucose levels, or your body cannot use it properly. Therefore, your blood glucose levels rise higher than normal, but they are not as high to indicate diabetes. However, it means you are at risk for type 2 diabetes due to the extra glucose in your blood.
Risk Factors of Prediabetes
People can go undiagnosed with prediabetes for years and years. Most of the time, symptoms only appear if the situation worsens or until an official diagnosis. There are certain risk factors associated with prediabetes. While some can be genetic and, therefore, unavoidable, most of the following factors are lifestyle-related, and you can work upon them.
- Age 45 and above
- Having a direct family member with type 2 diabetes
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
- History of gestational diabetes
- Physically inactive
- High blood pressure
Research indicates that obesity is a leading cause of prediabetes. Specifically, excess amounts of fat within the belly and around the abdomen, known as visceral fat, are supposed to be the primary cause of insulin resistance. Furthermore, research suggests that Asians are at higher risk for developing insulin resistance, even if they do not have an extremely high body mass index (BMI).
Fatty tissues don’t just store energy but also produce hormones that lead to inflammation in the body. The inflammation can be chronic and long-lasting. This inflammation also contributes to developing cardiovascular diseases, liver diseases, insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes.
Regular physical activity allows your body to restore blood glucose levels faster. Hence, not getting enough exercise makes it more likely to develop insulin resistance and prediabetes.
The HealthifyMe Note
Issues like insulin resistance and prediabetes can result from physical inactivity and other lifestyle-related problems that are the root causes of obesity. Thus, knowing what dietary modifications you should make or exercise to prevent severe health conditions is crucial.
Threats of Prediabetes
Recognising the early signs and preventing them from escalating into type 2 diabetes is vital to improving an individual’s health and quality of life. Several analyses have shown that identifying and acting on these also reduces the risk of severe complications, such as:
- Heart attacks
- Nerve damage
- Kidney disease, which can result in dialysis
- Loss of vision
- Sex-related problems
The most important factor to keep in mind here is blood glucose levels. It is crucial because the longer they go unmanaged, the worse the complications can potentially become.
Doctors usually arrive at the diagnosis of prediabetes through blood tests. Several blood tests can help in this regard, but doctors commonly resort to the following:
Glycated Haemoglobin (A1C) Test
This test measures blood glucose levels for the past 2 to 3 months. According to this, blood sugar levels between 5.7% to 6.4% are signs of prediabetes. However, this measure tends to be less sensitive than the others.
Fasting Blood Sugar (FPG) Test
FPG test demands you to stay empty stomach for at least 8 hours. If this test indicates between 100 and 125 mg/dL, it qualifies as prediabetes in an individual. This test also measures real-time blood glucose levels.
Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (OGTT)
The OGTT is more expensive than other tests. Therefore, they are not so popular. However, doctors recommend these tests to diagnose gestational diabetes in pregnant women. Similar to the FPG test, individuals have to fast overnight before the test. However, they are allowed to consume a sugar-filled drink during testing. The values between 140 and 199 mg/dL show prediabetes.
A recent study validates a non-invasive instrument to help screen individuals who may be at risk for prediabetes or even type 2 diabetes. With further advancements in technology as time goes on, medical science can likely develop more such measures for individuals worldwide.
Prevention and Treatment
If you’re someone diagnosed with prediabetes, the good news is that there are still ways to prevent getting type 2 diabetes. Research has often found that modifying your lifestyle is the primary key to preventing serious health complications. For example, there is evidence of over 40-70% risk reduction in prediabetic individuals who have changed their lifestyle.
A study found that losing 5-7% of starting body weight at the diagnosis helped reduce the risk of developing further into diabetes. For example, suppose you weigh around a hundred kilograms during your diagnosis. If you lose at least a modest five kilograms, your risk of developing diabetes further decreases.
Of course, it is important to use healthy and sustainable weight loss methods. However, the dietary regulations should also not aim at making you lose all the weight in a month. The goal here is to be able to start your well-being journey healthily.
Firstly, subtracting foods rich in refined fats and sugars is the ideal way to go about this. The key is to be able to eat food that is healthy for you, without restricting yourself and without binging on what you are trying to avoid. So try to choose food that is less in calories and fat but high in fibre.
You can also start by introducing new foods into your diet – there is no hurry! As long as you have begun to eat healthily, you can always keep removing unhealthy ingredients from your lifestyle. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, healthy oils like olive oil, and whole grains is the best option for prediabetic individuals.
Being More Active
The best (and the easiest) way to ‘reverse’ your prediabetic glucose levels is to exercise. Physical activity not only helps your blood glucose turn into energy faster, but it helps you manage your weight and even use insulin in the body effectively.
Again, start slow if your stamina is not the greatest! Try walking, running, swimming, dancing – whatever you like and whatever you do not get tired of. Exercise at least 150 minutes a week – so that could be anything from light walking combined with moderate running or sprinting combined with swimming. Try out different types of sports, see what suits your daily life and learn to add it into your routine.
Another important point in favour of physical activity is that it tires you out faster and therefore helps you go to sleep earlier and for longer! Unfortunately, prediabetic individuals can sometimes have sleep disorders with rising levels. Still, sleep is essential to recuperate from a long day and help your body create more energy.
Taking Prescribed Medicine
Talk to your doctor or medical advisor before consuming any medication. When your doctor advises medicines to treat prediabetes, it is vital that your doctor communicates with you regularly and sets clear goals and methods before starting treatment.
Doctors usually suggest the drug metformin as a measure against prediabetes. Sometimes medical professionals may also recommend you take blood pressure and cholesterol medications if your blood tests also show anomalies in their levels. However, a recent analysis has also indicated that caution is vital before implementing pharmacotherapy on children and adolescents.
There are several ways to manage your prediabetes that work in adjunction to the methods listed above:
Use a CGM
A continuous glucose monitor, or a CGM, is a way to regularly and instantaneously monitor your blood glucose levels throughout the day and through the night. It is a great way to track what you’re eating, how it affects your body and what you need to do about it.
With a CGM, you are immediately aware if you eat something that spikes your blood glucose. It helps you understand what to avoid, but more specifically, it lets you know how to improve your lifestyle – by changing ingredients, exercising more, eating at different times of the day, etc.
Quit smoking and limit your alcohol. These substances only add to your lifestyle-related issues and can have a detrimental effect if not regulated. Instead, use this time to maintain your work, relationships and family stressors. Stress comes from all life factors, and it is vital to reduce it because too much stress can also have devastating consequences on your health and will only escalate your prediabetes.
Create and Follow a Balanced diet
Plan something that you can stick to in the long term. Studies have highlighted nutritional therapy’s role in reducing the risk of diabetes. If you need help or some advice, contact a nutritionist who can help you create a healthy and balanced diet that is easy to maintain even without them.
The HealthifyMe Note
Continuous glucose monitoring is a great way to keep track of your blood glucose levels. You can do this to manage prediabetes and help prevent the same by understanding trends in blood sugar levels.
The most critical factors associated with prediabetes are blood glucose levels, weight and physical activity. You must reduce the former two while increasing the latter. While prediabetes is a serious health condition, there are ways to prevent it from escalating further, and there are also several ways to ‘reverse’ it if you will. Make sure to keep your doctor in the loop before implementing anything, and use their advice – they are the most familiar with your case.
Your lifestyle plays a massive role in how you proceed from a diagnosis of prediabetes- a prognosis may intimidate you. Still, it is up to you and your actions and behaviour to determine how you will go about this and whether you will let it define you!