In diabetes, the pancreas does not produce enough of the hormone insulin to help the body break down carbohydrates to useable sugars from foods. Glucose is a breakdown of theses sugars. Carbohydrates - found in foods like breads, cereals, and fruits - work to fuel the body like gas does a car. So what do experts mean when they say someone is pre-diabetic?
In Type I diabetes, the pancreas does not produce any insulin. Experts are uncertain of the causes of this condition, but people are generally born with Type I diabetes.
Type II diabetes, however, can be caused by both genetics and lifestyle. Again, the pancreas may not produce enough, or any, insulin to do the job. Insulin is the key that unlocks the cells in the body to accept carbohydrates that are broken down into glucose.
The American Diabetes Association (ADA) defines pre-diabetes as "Blood glucose levels that are higher than normal but not yet high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes." To determine whether a patient is diabetic, a doctor can perform a fasting plasma glucose or FPG test. This gauges the level of sugar/glucose in your blood to determine how your body is processing your food. According to the ADA, "pre-diabetic" glucose levels greater than 100mg/dL but less than 126mg/dL. This is a condition that could possibly lead to Type II diabetes, which can significantly increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, and other issues.
So what can people do to prevent pre-diabetes? Or what can you do if you have already been diagnosed with this condition? A proven solution is diet and exercise. Lifestyle changes that people can stick with are great methods for decreasing a further risk of developing Type II diabetes. A loss of 5-10% of body weight can make all the difference. Excess weight puts unwanted stress on the body to produce more insulin, essentially slowing down the efficiency of the pancreas.
You do not have to push yourself at the gym each day to get a benefit. Get moving each day for at least 30 minutes. Some examples could be walking, gardening, cleaning, even walking through a shopping mall. Find fun activities for the family, like tennis, hiking or throwing a ball around in the yard.
Diet is also a large piece of the puzzle; you can not have one without the other. Balance meals with whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and proteins. Watch portion sizes, use smaller plates, and be aware of what you are eating by taking the time to enjoy your meals. These simple changes can make a huge difference that may save your life. To get started on a diet and exercise program, consult a registered dietitian. The American Dietetic Association can help you find an expert in your area.
Jackie Termont, RD is a registered dietitian based in Richmond, VA. Jackie received her bachelor of science in nutrition from Purdue University in West, Lafayette, IN. She completed her dietetic internship at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, SC. During that time she was placed in Beaufort, SC for her assignment. She has experience as a hospital dietitian and taught weekly classes on heart healthy diets. Currently she is working as a renal dietitian in a dialysis center, teaching patients about the kidney/dialysis diet. She loves to bake and cook most nights, and especially on the weekends. Coming up with new recipes and lightening up existing recipes is a hobby. Jackie enjoys helping people with ideas for healthier meals and loves to talk about food. She can be reached via email at at firstname.lastname@example.org.