This is the fourth and final article in the series on prediabetes. In effect, the condition offers you the opportunity to improve your health.
WE have learned that if we have prediabetes (where blood glucose level is higher than normal but not reaching the level seen in diabetics), we are at least four to 10 times at higher risk of developing diabetes.
Even if we do not develop diabetes, we are still more prone to suffer diabetes-related complications such as kidney failure, eye disease or nerve damage.
More importantly, we are also at increased risk of heart disease and stroke, as well as other serious complications, including (early) death from any cause.
However, research has shown that if you take steps to manage your blood glucose when you have prediabetes, you can delay or prevent many of its detrimental effects, including developing type 2 diabetes (T2DM).
The Finnish Diabetes Prevention Study (DPS) and the American Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP), for example, have shown that a low-calorie meal plan with reduced fat intake and moderate-intensity physical activity of at least 150 minutes per week resulted in significant reduction in the number of people who progressed from prediabetes to diabetes.
If you have been diagnosed with prediabetes, make a concerted effort to improve your health by following these simple steps to help keep diabetes and other complications from developing.
Having a healthy, balanced diet
Always make sure that you (and your family) take a healthy and balanced diet, and in moderate amounts. Opt for variety, but choose foods that are low in salt, fat and calories and high in fibre.
Take more fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and drink plenty of water. For example, you may want to take three to five servings of vegetables such as carrots, cabbage and cauliflower, and drink six to eight glasses of (plain) water daily.
Consult your dietitian if you need more help with your diet.
If you are overweight or obese, you should also cut down on the amount of calories (food) that you take.
Losing weight not only reduces your risk of developing diabetes, it also reduces the tendency to develop heart disease as weight loss is associated with a lowering of high blood pressure and “bad” LDL-cholesterol in blood.
Keep physically active
Remember to keep active at all times, even at work. You can use a pedometer to target 10,000 steps (about 8km) per day.
You can also opt to cycle outdoors or use a stationary bicycle indoors, go swimming, or do gym work on a regular basis. Aim for at least 30 minutes (or longer if you need to lose weight) of moderate physical activity for most days of the week.
If you do not have the time to do a long workout, you can break it up into shorter (e.g. 10-20 minutes) sessions spread throughout the day. It is always great to get your family members and friends to join you for your exercise routine.
Exercise will not only lower your risk of developing diabetes, but will also reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, while strengthening your heart, muscles and bones and relieving stress.
Exercise also helps to lower high blood pressure and increase “good” HDL-cholesterol.
Losing excess weight
Studies have shown that if you are overweight or obese, losing just 5 to 10% of your body weight can reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes (and heart disease).
To make sure that you maintain your weight in the healthy range, remember to eat healthily and exercise regularly over the long term. Remind yourself of the many benefits of losing weight, such as a healthier heart, more energy, improved self-esteem, and of course, normal blood sugar levels.
Making sure that your blood pressure and cholesterol levels are in the normal range
In addition to increasing the risk of heart disease, stroke and kidney failure, high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol levels can also increase your risk of developing diabetes.
Have them checked regularly and make sure that they are kept in the recommended normal range.
Getting a good night’s sleep
Recent studies have suggested that regularly getting a good night’s sleep may reduce insulin resistance and the risk of diabetes. You should aim to get at least six hours of sleep each night.
New research indicates that cigarette smoking significantly increases the risk of developing diabetes. Remind yourself of the many other benefits of stopping smoking, such as reducing the risk for cancers, heart attack or stroke.
If you are a smoker, make a decision to quit, today.
People experiencing chronic stress may find it harder to eat healthily. They are more likely to eat high-calorie fatty and sugary foods, even though they are not hungry (“emotional eating”), which can lead to weight gain.
Engaging in regular physical activity or exercise, getting adequate sleep, and practising relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation and prayer would help. Discuss your problem and seek support from friends, family, and if necessary, your healthcare professional.
Going for regular check-ups
Make it a point to go for regular medical check-ups. It is always better to detect problems early so that effective treatment can be started immediately.
In some instances, proper diet and regular exercise may not be enough to reduce your blood glucose (or high blood pressure and blood cholesterol) levels to normal. In such cases, your doctor may prescribe medications to bring the levels to normal.
By adopting healthier lifestyle choices, you can significantly reduce your risk of developing diabetes, heart disease and other complications of prediabetes.
Having been told that you have prediabetes should not be taken as a “death” sentence. Instead, consider it a blessing in disguise and a wake-up call for you to start taking good care of your health so that you can avoid the potential dangers of prediabetes.
Emeritus Prof Datuk Dr Mustaffa Embong is a consultant diabetologist and (Honorary) Executive Chairman of the National Diabetes Institute (NADI) of Malaysia. The article is provided by NADI under the ‘Prevention of Diabetes and Heart Disease’ Programme, which is fully funded by the Health Promotion Board (HPB) of the Ministry of Health.