by Marwan Hamaty, MD
You may be surprised to know that one out of four people has pre-diabetes, or elevated blood glucose, putting them at a higher risk for developing cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
Unfortunately, there are no clear warning symptoms of pre-diabetes. A person may have diabetes and not even realize it.
To avoid diabetes, I recommend that my patients eat a healthy diet and pursue a healthy lifestyle. Regular exercise and adherence to a healthy diet are equally important in preventing diabetes — and it’s important to focus on both.
If you are at risk for type 2 diabetes, exercise and a healthy diet are your two most important weapons.
Risk factors for type 2 diabetes include a family history of diabetes and being overweight. Too much body weight prevents your body from manufacturing and using insulin properly.
Indeed, just how overweight you are matters: the higher the body weight, the higher the risk of diabetes.
To prevent diabetes, it is vital that you “know your numbers.” Research shows that treatment of diabetes with modest lifestyle changes often returns blood sugar levels to normal and lowers the risk for developing diabetes by 58 percent or more.
You are at a higher risk for type 2 diabetes if:
If you fall into any of the above categories, you should be checked with a blood glucose test by ages 40 to 45. Younger people, if you are overweight and have a family history, should also consider getting tested.
Diabetes is being seen by doctors at much earlier ages than in the past, even as young as in the teens, because of our current society’s inactivity and consequent obesity.
Regular moderate exercise not only helps with weight loss, but also maintains blood glucose, blood pressure, cholesterol and triglycerides at optimal levels.
Moderate physical activity of just 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week can be of great help in preventing diabetes.
Exercises for diabetes prevention may include:
In addition to helping to prevent diabetes, the wonderful thing about eating a healthy diet is that it controls cholesterol and keeps your blood pressure in check.
How much food you eat is key. Portion control is vital, even if you’re eating all the “right” foods.
Here are some guidelines for a healthy diabetes-prevention diet:
Exercise and a healthy diet also work to prevent diabetes among those of us who don’t need to lose weight.
Despite being at a normal weight or only slightly overweight, the benefits of a healthier lifestyle remain in place for individuals who are at risk for diabetes due to other factors.
Doctors may prescribe medications for individuals diagnosed with pre-diabetes, before full-fledged diabetes takes hold.
The drugs metformin and acarbose help when diet and exercise are not providing sufficient benefit — but these medications are no substitute for the real thing.
In clinical trials, dietary management and regular exercise were found to be superior to both acarbose and metformin.
In summary, diet and exercise are cheaper, healthier and the only side effects are good ones.
(published April 21, 2014)
Marwan Hamaty, MD, MBA, is a staff physician in the Endocrinology & Metabolism Institute at Cleveland Clinic. Dr. Hamaty is board certified in Endocrinology, Diabetes & Metabolism. His specialties include diabetes, pre-diabetes, polycystic ovary disease, thyroid disorders, osteoporosis, parathyroid disorders, adrenal disorders, pituitary disorders and male hypogonadism. He is a frequent contributor to Cleveland Clinic’s Health Hub, a consumer health and wellness blog.