American Diabetes Association Alert Day on March 22 this year is a part of a movement to create awareness about diabetes. In the United States, 38% of adult Americans have pre-diabetes. The Wisconsin percentage is slightly lower at 34%. This means one in three Wisconsinites have pre-diabetes. This does not include the percentage of adults who are at risk to develop pre-diabetes or actual diabetes.

The risks for diabetes include:

  • High weight: BMI over 25
  • Inactivity
  • A family history of diabetes
  • Non-white individuals
  • Age over 45
  • History of gestational diabetes or high blood sugars during pregnancy
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome
  • High blood pressure

Looking at the list above, there are items you can control but most you can’t such as family history, race, and age. The two risks that have the potential for change are weight and activity.

Starting in 1996 the Diabetes Prevention Outcome Study was started. This study was created to explore how diabetes could be prevented. Participants were from across the country and diagnosed with pre-diabetes. A diagnosis of pre-diabetes is made when a person has a fasting blood sugar of 100-125 or a Hemoglobin A1c, which is a test that gives a three-month average of blood sugars, of 5.7% to 6.4%.

There were 3,234 participants and they were in the study for three years. It included women and men, 50% caucasian, and 50% other races. and over 18 years of age. One-third of the group was asked and shown how to do lifestyle changes including improving diet, increasing activity, and losing weight. Another third was started on a common diabetes drug called metformin and the last third, the control group, made no lifestyle changes and were not placed on any medication.

After three years, the lifestyle group did an average of 150 minutes of exercise per week and lost 7% of their weight. For example, if a participant weighed 200 pounds that would be a weight loss of 14 pounds. The lifestyle group decreased their risk of developing diabetes by 58%. There was even better news for those over 60, who decreased their risk by 71%. The group on metformin also decreased their risk, but it was much lower at 31%.

Even after 10 years the lifestyle group reduced the rate of developing type 2 diabetes by 34%, delayed type 2 diabetes by about 4 years, and reduced cardiovascular risk factors, hemoglobin A1c, and fasting blood sugar when compared to the other groups.

One hundred fifty minutes of activity is about 20 minutes of activity per day. It should be activities that make your heart pound and make you breathe hard but not so hard you can’t talk. It can be planned such as walking, biking, hiking or skiing. Or it can be daily living activities such as hauling wood into the house, snow shoveling, or walking an extra block to a store when shopping.

In order to lose weight, it is important to choose less processed foods, especially those with lots of added sugar, and to decrease food portions. A good place to start is to think about what you drink. High-calorie beverages such as sodas, sweet teas, coffee drinks, energy drinks, alcohol, and juices can provide a lot of unneeded calories.  

Try to make one small habit change at a time to increase activity and eat better such as walking in place five minutes per day while watching television or choosing fruit instead of fruit juice. Little changes will all add up to healthier you.

Are you at risk for prediabetes? Check out the ADA/CDC Prediabetes Risk Test.

Rebecca Crumb-Johnson is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes care and education specialist with NorthLakes Community Clinic. She is currently accepting new patients and no referral is necessary. If you are interested in scheduling an appointment with her, call 888-834-4551.

Last Update: Mar 10, 2022 10:25 am CST

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