So, you found out that your blood sugar is a little high, but you’re not really sure what this means or what to do about it? Are you frightened your prediabetes is going to progress into full blown diabetes?
I know you are worried about what’s going to happen and now that you’re diagnosed with prediabetes and you don’t know what to do.
Here are 5 things that you need to know about prediabetes with some good news, of course. And because I am a pharmacist, I break it down so that you can understand what’s (really) going on inside your body.
#1. What is prediabetes
Prediabetes is when your blood sugar is a little bit above normal but not necessarily high enough to classify you as diabetic. It's important to measure your blood sugar and there are different ways to do this.
There are three main ways to measure your blood sugar; fasting blood sugar, non-fasting blood sugar, and A1C.
Fasting blood sugar is used to see your baseline blood sugar with no influence of food since this is tested when you haven’t eaten for at least 8 hours.
Fasting blood sugar
- Normal less than 100 ng/dl
- Prediabetes between 100- 125 mg/dl
- Diabetes above 126 mg/dl
Non-fasting blood sugar is used to see how your body responds to food. If your blood glucose levels in your body are still high after 2 hours of eating then your body is having a hard time responding to glucose from your food, this is called insulin resistance. I’ll go into further detail about insulin resistance below. Test your blood sugar 2 hours after a meal to see how your body is responding to glucose.
Non-fasting blood sugar
- Normal less than 140 ng/dl
- Prediabetes between 140- 199 mg/dl
- Diabetes above 200 mg/dl
Most commonly an A1C measurement is taken. This number represents the average blood glucose for about a 3 month period. Because your blood sugar can fluctuate, it’s nice to have a bigger picture look at what is happening in your body with the A1c measurement. The A1C test is sometimes called the hemoglobin A1c, HbA1c, or glycohemoglobin test.
- Normal less than 5.7%
- Prediabetes 5.7% to 6.4%
- Diabetes 6.5% or higher
Now, let’s take a look at the normal process for when you consume food, glucose, and insulin in the body so that you can better understand what is going on in your body and WHY you might need to start changing some of your daily habits.
Carbohydrates from your diet (in any form, either complex or simple carbohydrates) eventually break down into single units of glucose that are used to provide and make energy.
Insulin - produced by the pancreas to regulate glucose metabolism and storage and is, therefore, one of the hormones directly involved in blood sugar balance.
Insulin helps glucose get into the cells for energy and storage.
Glucose cannot enter the cell on its own; it needs insulin to open the doorway that allows glucose inside. Insulin acts as the key by binding to specific receptors on each cell.
Insulin allows it into cells and also works to signal the storage of any excess glucose not needed for immediate energy.
Insulin helps to store any excess glucose as fat. This is how high insulin levels contribute to excess fat stores in the body.
Now, there are 2 major ways that the normal process of consuming carbohydrates, releasing insulin, and insulin helping to get the glucose into the cell is disrupted.
The first disruption is when your pancreas is not working, like in Type 1 diabetes, there is no insulin being produced and insulin injections must be given so that you can eat.
The second disruption is when your pancreas is producing insulin, it’s just not as effective because of insulin resistance.
#2. What is insulin resistance?
Insulin resistance occurs when there is sufficient insulin present in the body to deal with the carbohydrate load coming in, but the lock and key mechanism involving insulin, that allows glucose into each cell, is not working effectively.
If insulin is not working effectively to get glucose into the cells, the signalling aspects of the endocrine system will keep alerting the pancreas to produce more insulin.
When insulin levels are chronically high, the cell receptors for the insulin become desensitized; the cells become resistant to insulin.
With high insulin also comes inflammation, which is a big factor that leads to more insulin resistance.
When there is insulin resistance, blood sugar levels may still be in the normal range but levels of circulating insulin in the body are typically very high.
Sugar is still getting from the bloodstream into cells but it requires much more insulin to get this job done in someone who is insulin resistant compared to someone who is not insulin resistant.
Insulin resistance is caused by:
- A diet high in refined and processed carbohydrates
- A diet high in unhealthy and inflammatory fats
- A diet low in nutrient dense foods
- High stress levels
- Lack of sleep
- Lack of exercise
And if someone in your family has prediabetes or type 2 diabetes then these next steps are crucial for you!
Genetics does play a role in whether or not you are at risk of developing prediabetes or type 2 diabetes.
Now, that doesn't mean you need to just accept whatever medications are thrown at your without changing your lifestyle because you think you have no control over your blood sugar.
You can change how your body handles glucose by reversing insulin resistance even if you have it in your genes! Say what!!!!!
#3. Does this mean you are going to develop Type 2 Diabetes?
Are you frightened and worried about if you’re going to go into ‘full blown diabetes?’
Prediadetes can lead to type 2 diabetes…but it doesn’t have to.
Scientific studies show that making lifestyle changes can often halt or at least slow down the progression of prediabetes so it doesn’t take a turn for the worse.
Several studies have shown that lifestyle changes can reduce the risk of prediabetes from going into diabetes by 70%.
Early intervention can turn back the clock and return elevated blood glucose levels to the normal range and increase insulin sensitivity.
#4. What can you do?
You can reverse insulin resistance by basically doing all the things that cause insulin resistance... but in reverse. Eat a healthy diet, get enough sleep, reduce your stress, and exercise.
Losing weight is an important step for most people with prediabetes, and the amount doesn’t have to be huge to make a difference. A weight loss of just 10 to 15 pounds can really stack the odds in your favor. Coupled with 30 minutes of exercise each day and healthy food choices, you’ll be on your way.
Higher body weight increases diabetes risk for everyone. However, you do not have to be overweight to be affected by prediabetes or diabetes.
Your very first focus should be on cleaning up your diet.
- Add nutrient dense fiber containing foods like fruits and vegetables into your everyday meals.
- Increase lean protein and healthy fat so that you can stay full and not rely on processed carbohydrates or other added sugar filled snacks.
- Decrease the amount of added sugar and refined carbohydrates in your diet. This includes anything out of a box or when you eat out. Not just typical sweets like donuts, but ‘foods’ like energy bars and yogurt.
Make these changes slowly as you can.
Do not radically change your diet in 24 hours. That is not sustainable for anyone.
Making small changes by adding things in or swapping foods out will eventually lead to long lasting results on your blood sugar and how your body responds to insulin.
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Exercise can reverse insulin resistance. This means as you exercise consistently over time, you are helping your body relearn how to use glucose in your body. Then when you get that spike of glucose and insulin after a meal it will be used up by your cells, muscles, and liver rather than hanging out in your blood stream.
My first recommendation for 'exercising' is to just start moving more. Think about something realistic that you can do daily.
- Maybe that is walking for 5 minutes a day in the morning and in the evening after dinner.
- Or taking the stairs at work or where you live.
- Or parking far away from the door at the grocery store so you have to add in some steps.
What can you do to get started moving more?
Once you are moving more and reaching your step goal for the day (if you track your steps), start to add in some intentional cardio or muscle building exercises.
Shoot for one day a week of a total body exercise at first. You can do it at home or at your local gym. Find something that works for you and that you can actually stick with.
Once you are consistently exercising one day every week then increase to 2 or 3 days a week.
You don’t have to turn into a pro bodybuilder who exercises at the gym for 2 hours every day.
Just a little bit can really go a long way AND make you feel so much better, give you confidence, and keep you on the path of making healthy decisions! You got this!
Tell me, what is one thing you are doing to lower your blood sugar?
#5 Where can you get help?
Right here! I know this stuff!
I help people lower their blood sugar and blood pressure naturally along with all the sciency stuff about how and why.
I believe that when you really know what’s going on inside your body you can make changes that last and lower your numbers!