Aug 2, 2019
Diabetes is taking a toll on our nation. Nearly 24 million Americans suffer from the life-threatening disease in which the body can no longer make enough insulin or properly use the insulin it does make to control glucose levels in our blood stream. An estimated six million more individuals don’t even know they have it.
Diabetes is a disease that affects all of your internal organs by affecting the vascular supply. Because high blood sugar increases inflammation in your arteries, your organs receive less blood than they need to stay healthy and function properly. With diabetes you have a greater risk for stroke, heart attack, kidney failure, blindness, and advanced memory loss. Diabetes also makes it difficult for wounds to heal, often allowing gangrene to develop. In some cases, poor circulation can even lead to amputation of extremities.
Out of the 24 million Americans who have diabetes, another 57 million adults have “pre-diabetes”—also know as insulin resistance.
How can you know if you are one of them?
While there can be a variety of symptoms—increased thirst or hunger, fatigue, blurry vision, frequent infections, inflammation of the gums, and frequent urination—often times patient’s are asymptomatic. A simple blood test can diagnose insulin resistance.
During a fasting blood sugar test, a sample of blood is drawn the morning after an overnight fast. A blood sugar level less than 100 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) is considered normal, while 100 to 125 mg/dL is considered insulin resistant, and 126 mg/dL or higher on two separate tests is considered diabetes. However, more frequently, blood is drawn for a hemoglobin A1C test to measure an individual’s average blood sugar level. The test is repeated once a month for three months. A normal hemoglobin A1C level is below 5.7 percent. A level of 6.4 percent or higher on two separate occasions is consistent with diabetes. Levels between 5.7 and 6.3 percent are considered insulin resistant.
Insulin resistance presents a small window of opportunity for a course correction.
Once you have diabetes, even if you get it under control, you still have to deal with its long-term effects on your organs. In other words, once you have diabetes, you are always considered diabetic even if you don’t require medication. The good news is, by making some healthy changes you can return blood glucose levels to normal ranges and prevent insulin resistance from becoming type 2 diabetes.
Here are tips to help reverse insulin resistance and stop its progression to diabetes.
Reaching and maintaining a healthy weight is the single most important thing you can do to reduce your risk for diabetes.
While weight loss can seem daunting, every pound you lose can improve your health. Studies show that even a modest weight loss of just seven to 10 percent of your body weight—combined with regular exercise—can reduce the risk of developing diabetes by nearly 60 percent.
Get moving and keep moving.
There are so many good reasons to exercise. Besides helping you maintain a healthy weight, physical activity lowers your blood sugar and boosts your sensitivity to insulin, which helps keep your blood sugar within a normal range.
If you currently are not exercising, start with 10 minutes three times a week, and gradually increase your exercise to 30 to 45 minutes of cardiovascular exercise five days a week. Exercise is considered activity that causes an increased and sustained elevation of your heart rate that is also challenging and can lead to improved health. Sometimes people say, ‘Oh, I walk a lot at work,’ which is good, but it’s not a replacement for exercise because your body adjusts to that as your baseline level of activity so it no longer provides the cardiovascular benefit of exercise. In addition to your daily routine, try to include exercise of variable intensity and duration that increases your heart rate.
Eat good food.
In a time when frozen foods and fast food makes it far too easy to choose convenience over nutrition, we’ve moved away from what our bodies really want and need—fresh, healthy foods that aren’t loaded with hidden sugars and fats.
Reducing the amount of carbohydrates and sugars you consume is important. Everything from drinks to condiments contain sugar. Pay attention to food labels so you can make smart choices. Instead of sodas, drink more water or unsweetened coffee and tea. Avoid alcohol because it contains a lot of sugar.
Choose whole grains over processed carbohydrates that break down into sugar more rapidly, causing an elevation in your blood sugar. Eat more vegetables, especially those that aren’t starchy. Stay away from processed meats, limit the amount of red meat you eat and opt for leaner proteins like chicken and fish.
Talk with your doctor.
Be proactive and schedule your annual physical exam. Ask your doctor if you should be screened for diabetes and discuss steps you can take to prevent it.