NYACK, N.Y. -- An estimated 84 million Americans have prediabetes -- a diagnosis which can ultimately lead to type 2 diabetes. However, 90 percent of those at risk are unaware of their condition, according to the CDC.
Taking steps to reduce the risk of prediabetes and diabetes isn't difficult according to Dr. Valentine J. Burroughs, an endocrinologist at Highland Medical P.C. By simply making changes to diet and activity levels, diabetes can usually be completely avoided.
“If your doctor tells you that you have prediabetes, you should get busy making changes to your diet and exercise plan,” said Burroughs. “It’s often helpful to consult a nutritionist about the best way to eat healthy, as weight loss is key."
Prediabetes can be determined through a simple blood sugar test. If you haven’t been to the doctor lately to test blood sugar levels, celebrate Diabetes Alert Day -- March 27 -- by making an appointment. It’s especially important for people with certain risk factors to undergo a check-up. Risks include people who:
- have a family history of diabetes
- are over age 45
- are overweight
- are African American, Alaska Native, American Indian, Asian American, Hispanic/Latino, Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander
- have high blood pressure
- have a low level of HDL (“good”) cholesterol, or a high level of triglycerides
- have a history of pregnancy-related (gestational) diabetes or gave birth to a baby weighing 9 pounds or more
- are not physically active
Serious lifestyle changes can prevent type 2 diabetes from developing in people with a prediabetes diagnosis. If you’re overweight, it's important set a healthy, attainable weight-loss goal. In most cases, losing at least 5 to 10 percent of your current weight can drastically improve overall health. Using a BMI calculator is an easy first to step determine if you're below, at or over your recommended weight.
To help lose weight, find ways to be active every day. Start slowly and add more activity until you get to at least 30 minutes of physical activity, such as a brisk walk, five days a week. Get friends and family involved by asking them to support your changes, or join like-minded groups of people focused on living a healthy lifestyle.
“Preventing diabetes is very important because high blood sugar levels can lead to a host of health problems, such as heart disease, kidney disease, stroke, eye problems, nerve damage and foot problems,” said Burroughs. “Prediabetes is not something to ignore. If your doctor tells you that you have prediabetes, treat it as a wake-up call, to warn you to make lifestyle changes to protect your health.”