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Reverse Pre-diabetes with Diet and Exercise

people exercise in a gym class

Everywhere you look, there they are — cakes, cookies, pies, breads, and pastas. They’re foods that taste delicious, are easily accessible in supermarkets, restaurants, and bakeries — and for most people, they’re hard to resist. But these same irresistible foods come with specific dangers: not only can too much sugar consumption pack on the pounds, it also can open the door to a potentially life-threatening condition called Type 2 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition that affects the way the body metabolizes sugar (glucose), the body's most important source of fuel. With Type 2 diabetes, your body either resists the effects of insulin (a hormone that regulates the movement of sugar into your cells), or it doesn't produce enough to maintain a reasonable glucose level.

The American Diabetes Foundation reports that 86 million Americans age 20 and older have pre-diabetes, a condition in which blood glucose levels are higher than usual but not high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes. Pre-diabetes is not a clinical condition per se, but it does represent an increased risk for diabetes and the complications that go along with it — including cardiovascular disease, obesity, high cholesterol and blood pressure levels, heart disease, kidney disease, vision problems, neurological problems in the hands and feet, and stroke.

Know your risk factors

Pre-diabetes does not have symptoms, but some individuals are at increased risk and should be tested — in particular, if they are overweight or obese, with a Body Mass Index of greater than 25 — and have one of the following risk factors:

  • abnormally high blood glucose levels on prior blood work tests
  • first-degree relative with diabetes
  • high-risk race/ethnicity: African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, Asian Americans, and Pacific Islanders are more prone to the condition
  • women who have had a history of gestational diabetes or polycystic ovary syndrome (an endocrine system disorder among women of reproductive age)
  • history of cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and abnormally high cholesterol and triglyceride levels
  • physical inactivity

It is important to be tested for pre-diabetes if you have increased risk factors because early medical intervention and lifestyle changes can help reverse the trend. One of the most effective ways to help stave off pre-diabetes is to lose weight. Even a weight loss of five to 10 percent of body weight can lower risk.

To find a physician, please visit nyp.org or call 877-697-9355.