A quick overview of what we’ll cover in this blog post:
- An overview of diabetes and how it develops
- Ways to prevent diabetes
- Tips for monitoring your risk of diabetes
About 34 million people in the U.S. have diabetes. An additional 94 million people have pre-diabetes, which means they are at high risk of developing diabetes. That equates to roughly a third of the U.S. population living with or at high risk of developing diabetes. To make matters worse, diabetes can take several years to develop. That’s why many people may be at risk and not even know it.
But the good news is there’s a lot you can do to stay aware of your risk for diabetes and make changes to your health to prevent diabetes! Keep reading to learn more about diabetes, how it develops, and tips for prevention.
What is diabetes?
Diabetes is an advanced, late-stage metabolic condition that affects the ability of insulin (a hormone) to break down sugar (or glucose). The immune system either attacks insulin-producing cells (type 1) or the body develops a resistance to insulin, meaning the insulin the body does produce isn’t effective. Type 2 is the most common (accounting for about 90% of all diabetes cases) and can be driven by genetics or lifestyle habits (eating, minimal physical activity, and so on).
Diabetes doesn’t happen overnight. However, there are often ways of recognizing whether you are at risk. Insulin resistance, specifically, is usually one of the first signs that someone is heading down the path towards diabetes. As the body develops insulin resistance, glucose builds up in the body and attaches to proteins in the body (called AGEs). Over time, the build up of glucose can lead to full diabetes and a range of chronic conditions, such as heart disease, nerve damage, and organ failure.
Early in the disease course, however, diabetes usually causes no outward symptoms; that’s why it often goes undiagnosed until it advances.
What is prediabetes?
While insulin resistance is usually the first sign that someone could develop diabetes, prediabetes represents a significant step towards more serious disease. Prediabetes means someone has a higher than normal fasting glucose level, though not quite high enough to be considered diabetes.
Diabetes is usually diagnosed when someone has a fasting glucose higher than 126 mg/dL, while prediabetes is diagnosed between the 100 to 126 mg/dL range. Just below 100 mg/dL, therefore, is considered normal. However, some research suggests that levels near 85 mg/dL and up can still cause tissue damage. It may be better, in fact, that we keep our levels closer to 85 mg/dL.
Unfortunately, similar to insulin resistance, most people (about a third of Americans, for example) don’t know if they have prediabetes. That’s why it’s important to act now and monitor your risk. If left untreated, prediabetes can turn into full-blown diabetes.
How can you monitor your risk for diabetes?
Monitoring your glucose levels is the most important thing you can do to assess your risk. Here are a few ways you can do that:
- Receive blood work regularly and follow up with your doctor. This can help you keep track of whether your levels are trending upwards or not.
- Use at-home tools to monitor your health, such as continuous glucose monitors and at-home blood tests. These can help you track glucose levels as well as detect early signs of insulin resistance.
How can you prevent diabetes?
Prevention, without a doubt, is the best way to avoid long-term health problems caused by diabetes. Fortunately, most diabetes cases are caused by lifestyle choices, which means there are many ways to reduce your risk of type 2!
In addition to watching your glucose levels closely, diet and exercise are two easy lifestyle changes you can take to lower your risk of diabetes:
- Eat low-glycemic foods. Low-glycemic foods have fewer carbohydrates (fruits, vegetables, etc.), which help minimize glucose levels in your body. The Mediterranean diet, for example, has been found to have a range of health benefits that can help prevent diabetes.
- Exercise regularly. Getting up to 150 minutes of exercise a week (brisk walking, sports, running, swimming, etc.) can help improve your body’s response to insulin and help keep glucose levels in check.
There are also supplements and treatments available that can help reduce your risk of diabetes. Metformin, in particular, is a FDA-approved drug for the treatment of diabetes, but it can also be used for prevention.
Preventing diabetes can start today. Talk to your doctor or check out the range of diabetes prevention products available at AgelessRx to find a prevention strategy that works for you!