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Uncovering the Hidden Truths: Surprising Facts About Prediabetes and Diabetes

Uncovering the Hidden Truths: Surprising Facts About Prediabetes and Diabetes

Here are surprising facts about prediabetes and diabetes to get your attention: 1 in 3 American adults has prediabetes and the majority of them don’t know they have it.

The symptoms aren't necessarily detectable until you start having serious health problems. And unless you have regular physical exams and blood work, you might not know it until it progresses to diabetes.

Diabetes was declared an epidemic in 1994 and at the time, type 2 diabetes, which is by far the more prevalent one (90-95% of cases) was called "adult-onset diabetes". As more and more children and teens began developing the disease (due to diets filled with sugary drinks, snacks, and processed foods with too many calories and not enough nutrition leading to increasing obesity rates in this age group), diabetes got a name change and is now referred to as type 2 diabetes.

Prediabetes vs. Diabetes

Prediabetes is a serious health condition marked by higher-than-normal blood sugar which can be detected in a simple A1C blood test. Prediabetes puts you at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.

What A1C levels determine diabetes? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  • A normal A1C level is below 5.7%,

  • A level of 5.7% to 6.4% indicates prediabetes (Within the 5.7% to 6.4% prediabetes range, the higher your A1C, the greater your risk is for developing type 2 diabetes.)

  • A level of 6.5% or more indicates diabetes.

But isn't diabetes genetic? I'm not at risk.

If you fit into any of these categories, you could be at a higher risk of developing prediabetes:

  • Being 45 years or older

  • Having a parent, brother, or sister with type 2 diabetes

  • Being overweight

  • Being physically active less than 3 times a week

  • Ever having gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy) or giving birth to a baby who weighed more than 9 pounds

  • Race and ethnicity are also factors. African Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, American Indians, Pacific Islanders, and some Asian Americans are at higher risk.

What does diabetes look like?

Diabetes affects your whole body...every major organ, nerves, and even your mental health. It's not uncommon for people with diabetes to experience kidney failure, blindness, and nerve damage which can lead to amputation. The risk of depression is doubled if you have diabetes. Truly, diabetes can impair your quality of life, even with medication.

How is diabetes treated?

We've all seen the cheerful commercials, people dressed in bright yellows and blues, dancing and leaping around because a certain drug is helping them manage their A1C. For some, medication is necessary, and thank goodness we have it, but these commercials paint a prettier picture of diabetes management than the reality for many people. The key word here is "management". None of these medications cure diabetes.

GoodRx calculates that the average person with diabetes could spend between $3,300 and $4,600 a year on out-of-pocket costs, including prescription medications, provider visits, over-the-counter supplies, and lost wages.

In our culture where medication is often prescribed before lifestyle modifications, we're really only managing health problems instead of reversing them. No one talks about the side effects of the pharmaceuticals used in the treatment of diabetes like hypoglycemia, nausea, gastrointestinal problems, including diarrhea and constipation, abdominal pain, allergic skin reactions, and liver inflammation. Not such a pretty picture, is it?

How can prediabetes and diabetes be reversed?

Up until recently, most healthcare professionals believed that once you developed diabetes, the only choices you had were in what medications to manage it. Led by Dr. Neil Barnard, more recent studies have given way to breakthroughs in the treatment of diabetes. These breakthroughs rely on habit and behavior change, not medication. With recent scientific studies, patient success stories, and a focus on changes to diet and lifestyle, Dr. Barnard's program for preventing and reversing diabetes is changing the future.

What's revolutionary about this change in approach is that it's not about traditional recommendations for carb counting and reducing portion sizes. Research has shown that the critical factor is the type of food you eat. And what's even more revolutionary is that by changing the approach, you can be in control!

We recently had an introductory class on preventing and reversing diabetes. Additional classes are being added to help increase the knowledge about this condition and how to prevent progression. If you or anyone you know has prediabetes or diabetes, I encourage you to take a class and learn more. Here is a quick summary of some of the key points about changes you can start making today.

1. Set aside animal products.

  • Choose plant-based milk instead of dairy.

  • Remember that plant-based foods have all the protein, calcium, and iron you need!

  • And plant-based foods have FIBER, something no animal food has.

  • By making more room on your plate for plants, you'll be eating a diet far richer in vitamins and plant-chemicals which will help nourish you, keep you young, and prevent disease.

2. Keep fat and oils to a minimum.

  • Check the labels on food packages–strive for foods with 3 grams or less of fat per serving.

  • Sauté and cook with water instead of oil. It works, trust me!

  • Look for ways to replace oil in baking, try applesauce; in salad dressings, opt for flavorful vinegars, citrus juices, herbs, and spices.

  • Just being aware of where added fats and oils creep into your diet is a good start...olives, avocados, nuts and nut butters aren't inherently unhealthy but you can consume a lot of fat even in very small portions so eat them sparingly.

3. Choose foods that have a low G.I. (glycemic index)

  • Beans and other legumes

  • Green leafy vegetables

  • Pasta (and look for whole grain or legume-based pastas)

  • Barley, bulgur, and parboiled rice

  • For something sweet fruits are lower GI than sugary snacks.

  • Look up specific foods at

Remember, discuss changes with your healthcare provider and keep them in the loop!

Learn more in our upcoming class: The Power of Your Plate and Grocery Cart

If you have any questions or want to explore changes to your diet and lifestyle, please reach out. Private and group sessions are available for families and patients.

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