Over 88 million Americans have prediabetes, but the good news is that it can be reversed in a few simple steps.
Written by: Erin Slay-Wilson
Media contact: Anna Jones
One in 10 Americans has diabetes and more than 88 million have prediabetes. With an often irreversible diagnosis and lasting health implications, diabetes is a disease that can be prevented with the right strategies and the right support. In this National Diabetes Month, experts from the University of Alabama in the Birmingham Department of Family and Community Medicine at UAB Marnix E. Heersink School of Medicine are sharing tips on how to prevent diabetes completely.
Know your risk factors
Ksenia Blinnikova, MD, an assistant professor in the department, sees patients with diabetes management needs and specializes in weight management as part of her primary care practice. Blinnikova notes that one in three people in the United States have prediabetes, which means they have higher than normal blood sugar levels that are not high enough to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes Prediabetes can be reversed before a diagnosis of diabetes is made.
“Lifestyle modification is the basis for managing blood sugar levels and avoiding a diagnosis of diabetes,” she said. “Making small changes to diet and introducing regular exercise can help delay the onset of diabetes or even reverse a patient’s prediabetic blood sugar range. “
Blinnikova recommends that patients with high blood sugar, a family history of diabetes, or a history of gestational diabetes discuss their risk of developing diabetes with their primary care provider.
Eat with diabetes in mind
“Patients need to understand the role of nutrition in preventing chronic diseases like diabetes,” said Caroline cohen, Ph.D., RD, assistant professor of the department. “The types, amounts and when of the foods you eat all play a vital role in how you feel and how your blood sugar is managed. You can work with a registered dietitian to better understand the impact of a balanced diet on your health and improve your overall lifestyle.
Patients at risk of developing diabetes should eat a diet rich in fiber, limit sugary drinks and favor poultry or fish over red or processed meats.
Find support through prevention programs and your primary care provider
According to Cohen, interested patients can enroll in the diabetes prevention program. The DPP provides education and resources for people who want to make lifestyle changes related to nutrition, exercise and behavioral health.
Blinnikova encourages patients to seek support groups and speak with their primary care provider about diabetes prevention.
“Patients can get specific recommendations on diet modification and exercise prescriptions from primary care providers,” Blinnikova said. “These conversations are a great starting point on a patient’s journey to a healthier life.
Maintain a healthy weight and exercise regularly
Cohen and Blinnikova encourage patients to maintain a healthy weight.
“Obesity increases the risk of developing diabetes,” Cohen said. “Research indicates that obese people can significantly reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes by losing just 7-10% of their current weight.”
Blinnikova talks to her patients about making regular exercise part of their daily lives to maintain a healthy body mass index, even if they have to start small.
“For people who haven’t exercised, I recommend starting with five to 10 minutes a day and slowly increasing the intensity and duration,” she noted. “Choose what you like to do, whether it’s walking, jogging, biking or other activities, and just keep moving. Every minute counts.
The UAB Department of Family and Community Medicine uses a holistic approach to healthy lifestyles. With an on-site dietitian, behavioral health specialist, sports medicine providers and weight loss specialists, the department’s clinics are available to work as a team to encourage patients and help them avoid a diabetes diagnosis. and achieve healthy life goals. For patients who want to make lifestyle changes, the Exercise is Medicine program is a great first step towards achieving health goals. EIM offers patients a discounted local YMCA membership and provides specific recommendations for starting an exercise program that is accessible and effective for them.
Learn more about UAB Medicine’s weight loss programs here.