• The Truth About Pre-Diabetes and How Common It Is

    by Dr. Payal Bhandari
    on Apr 20th, 2017

Many of us think we live somewhat healthy enough to avoid the risks of developing diabetes. However, our modern food culture and sedentary lifestyles do not allow us to take proper care of our bodies. According to the Center for Disease Control, over 86 million people have prediabetes, the precursor to diabetes. This is equivalent to 1 in every 3rd American with the gap quickly decreasing over the next 5 years. .

Many people live with prediabetes for many years without realizing since they often experience no obvious symptoms. Some may develop dark, thin skin patches on their neck, knees, knuckles, armpits, and elbows which are signs of prediabetes. A little extra fat around the abdomen can also be a sign of prediabetes.

Although there are various factors which can easily lead to the development of prediabetes, there is insufficient awareness regarding how the impact of our daily lifestyle affects our health. In fact, an estimated 90% of people with prediabetes are simply unaware they have it.

What is Insulin Resistance (also called Pre-Diabetes)?

When the glucose (a.k.a., sugar) is detected in the blood, the pancreas will release insulin.  Insulin will bind to glucose and deliver the glucose to all of the organs which need the glucose for energy.  The problem is when the production of glucose in the blood excesses the body’s cells demand for glucose, the cells will resist the effects of insulin.  The insulin will bind to the blood glucose but has no home to go to.  

The pancreas must also keep pumping out more insulin to keep up with the continued demand of excess blood sugar. Eventually, the pancreas becomes tired and can no longer keep up with the high insulin demand. At this point, the insulin level in the bloodstream begins to decrease causing the blood sugar to no longer be adequately delivered to the body’s cells for energy.  As blood sugar begins to increase to toxic levels, the blood vessels become damaged and cause a high level of inflammation.  All of the body's organs now become damaged.  

Prediabetes is when the body’s cells become resistant to the effects of insulin.  Diabetes is when the pancreas can no longer keep up with the high insulin demand and hence, leads to blood sugar levels reaching toxic levels. Once diabetes has been diagnosed, major damage has already occurred to the blood vessels and all of the body’s organs.  The risk of having a  heart attack, stroke, cancer, dementia, liver and kidney failure are extremely high.  

Insulin resistance (aka., prediabetes) is linked to skin problems (i.e., acne, eczema), fatty liver disease, hormone disorders, infertility, kidney damage, obesity, and blindness.

How To Prevent The Onset of Diabetes

A prediabetes diagnosis does not necessarily mean you’ll develop type 2 diabetes. Depending on different risk factors, not everyone will be able to fully prevent prediabetes. However, most people will be able to lower their risk through healthier lifestyle habits. Once your doctor has determined you have prediabetes, there are many things you can do to keep your blood sugar low and prevent the progression to diabetes. It typically takes 3 to 7 years for prediabetes to develop into type 2 diabetes.  

You can improve your blood sugar levels and lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by making healthy changes to your daily lifestyle. Here are a few simple natural health tips to get you started.

Apple cider vinegar, cinnamon extract, and foods high in fiber or chromium, have been shown to help lower blood sugar levels. You can drink apple cider vinegar in water (2 tsp in 8 ounces of water) or use it frequently as a salad dressing. Eating foods that are high in fiber throughout the day helps balance blood sugar levels. You should aim to get at least 25 to 30 grams of fiber per day from fresh vegetables, whole grains (not wheat or white rice; buckwheat, barley, quinoa, brown rice), seeds, avocados, and beans (i.e., split peas, lentils, chickpeas, black beans).  

Chronic sleep problems cause you to have imbalanced energy levels, and can out bodies less effective at using insulin.  Sufficient quality sleep is critical because it helps the body repair from the our everyday stressors, and directly affects our daily eating and exercise habits. 8 to 9 hours of uninterrupted sleep every night is recommended for all adults.

Our modern culture has made it more normal to have a sedentary lifestyle. However, we all need at least one hour of physical activity every day. You don’t need to necessarily start going to the gym and committing to a strict regimen. Start integrating more activity into your life and get your body accustomed to moving around throughout the day. For example, try dancing while you're around the house.  Put music on while you sweep the floors or cook dinner. Getting into the habit of going for walks is a very practical goal that can make a big difference on your health. You can also try playing a sport or joining an exercise class. Start with one step and make a practical goal that you can maintain before you move onto the next.

How To Know If You Have Diabetes

Although there are generally no symptoms for prediabetes, there are factors that increase your likelihood of having diabetes. If you are over 40, overweight, have a family history of diabetes, or lead a sedentary lifestyle, you should consult with a doctor and get your bloodwork checked (i.e., cholesterol panel, blood sugar levels).  If you are diagnosed with prediabetes, it is important to get on the right eating plan, become physically active, and stop smoking and drinking.  Otherwise, your body will keep aging prematurely and allowing serious chronic diseases associated with diabetes to set in.  

An estimated 3 out of 4 people with prediabetes will eventually develop diabetes. If you have been more thirsty or tired than usual, experiencing blurred vision, brain fog, or frequent urination, you may prediabetes that is now progressing into diabetes.

Be Proactive: How To Treat Pre-Diabetes

As with any chronic illness, prediabetes requires personalized treatment to best understand its underlying culprit(s).  Diabetes can be remarkably improved and even reversed through aggressive lifestyle counseling focused on nutrition, physical activity, sleep and stress management.  If you would like to learn more about how to reverse your pre-diabetes or optimize your diabetes, contact Dr. Payal Bhandari, M.D.. Dr. Bhandari is an integrative functional medicine physician who specializes in chronic illness. She  will define a personalized treatment which targets how to effectively lessen your insulin resistance and many of its associated health complications.

Author Dr. Payal Bhandari Dr. Payal Bhandari M.D. is a leading practitioner of integrative and functional medicine in San Francisco.

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