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Health Information | 04/28/2021

Prediabetes? Now is the Best Time To Make a Change

By  Helen Mastro, MS, RD, CDE
Are you are one of the almost 80 million Americans who have been diagnosed with prediabetes? If so, consider it a warning sign. It’s important to make changes as soon as you can to help prevent or slow the development of diabetes.

Most people who develop Type 2 diabetes start with prediabetes, also known as impaired fasting blood sugar. Fasting blood sugar levels are elevated, between 100 and 125mg/dl, and Hemoglobin A1c 5.7-6.4%, but not high enough to be classified as diabetes. While many individuals with diabetes experience symptoms such as excessive thirst, frequent desire to urinate, blurred vision and feeling tired, these symptoms are rarely reported in those with prediabetes. Even though you may be feeling fine, it’s important to note that people with prediabetes are 50% more likely to have a stroke or heart attack than people with normal blood sugar readings.

Other risk factors

In addition to impaired fasting blood sugar, being overweight or having a family history of diabetes also increases your risk. Women diagnosed with gestational diabetes or polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) are also at higher risk of developing diabetes, as are individuals with high blood pressure, high triglycerides, and a low HDL or good cholesterol.

Take steps now!

If you have prediabetes, the best treatment is to eat less and move more. Research studies have shown that even a modest weight loss of 5-10 percent of your body weight, along with 30 minutes of physical activity most days of the week, can help prevent diabetes. If the thought of launching into a diet and exercise program is overwhelming, focus instead on working toward smaller goals each week. Try some of these suggestions from Atrius Health’s nutritionists:

  • Keep a detailed food and activity journal. This can help identify areas in your diet and exercise you would like to change, increase mindful eating, and act as positive reinforcement for healthy behaviors. There are several websites or apps offering free food tracking – popular options are the Lose It or MyFitnessPal apps or
  • Make your snacks count. Include healthy snacks in-between meals to keep your energy level up and help prevent hunger, so you don’t overeat at mealtime.  Good choices include Greek yogurt with fresh berries, peanut butter on a slice of whole wheat bread, or raw veggies with bean dip.
  • Eliminate as many sweets as possible. Sweets, sugary drinks, and even fruit juices and sports drinks contribute “empty calories,” which make it hard to lose weight.  They are sources of refined or simple carbohydrates, which raise your blood sugar quickly. If you can eliminate just 100 calories from these foods/drinks every day, that may equate to losing ten pounds in a year!
  • Try to be active for at least 150 minutes each week. Although this one sounds scary, the key is to spread out your exercise over the week (remember that journal?). Exercise decreases insulin resistance, which means the more you move, the better your insulin works to lower your blood sugar. Ideally, try to be active most days. Walk briskly for 30 minutes five times per week, or swim for one hour each weekend day, and walk for 15 minutes two evenings, or push the lawnmower for one hour and play softball two evenings…you get the idea. The goal is to use your muscles, increase your heart rate and break a sweat. Take advantage of the longer daylight hours and warm weather, and get moving!
If you need help, motivation, or more information on ways to prevent diabetes, ask your primary care physician about a nutrition referral to one of our nutritionists.

About The Author

Helen Mastro, MS, RD, CDE

Helen Mastro has been with Atrius Health since 1993 and sees patients at our Somerville and Wellesley practice locations. While she provides medical nutrition therapy education for a wide variety of nutritional problems, she has a particular interest in the areas of diabetes education, obesity, and pediatric nutrition.

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