If you or someone you know has just been diagnosed with pre-diabetes, all is not lost. There is actually some good news here. You and your doctor still have time to reverse the process and prevent the onset of diabetes. This is because pre-diabetes simply means diabetes has not developed just yet, but the individual is much more likely to develop diabetes in the near future.
Typically, diabetes is diagnosed by running blood tests, typically to look at fasting blood sugar levels and insulin levels. The fasting blood sugar level - how much sugar is in the bloodstream after not eating for 8-12 hours, is valuable information because it tells the doctor how your body is processing sugar. Generally, we want the sugar to get to the muscles, the liver, and the brain so that it can be used for energy. When we have too much sugar in the bloodstream (hyperglycemia), it can lead to long-term health effects, like the loss of feeling in one’s fingers and toes, changes in vision (including blindness), and an increased risk for heart disease and stroke.
How much sugar in the bloodstream is too much? The cutoff for a fasting blood test is 100 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) or higher. Doctors may also look at another blood test called hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c). This helps the doctor determine average blood sugar levels over the past three months. HbA1c is expressed as a percentage, where a value less than 6.5 percent is ideal.
What happens if your blood sugar is high (i.e., over 100), but not so high that you have diabetes? Well, the good news is there is still time to bring that blood sugar level back down.
Some of the most important steps an individual can take to reduce their blood sugar levels and prevent the onset of diabetes would be to do the following:
I realize that some of these suggestions may seem overwhelming. If that’s the case, please know that I understand. Instead, I recommend trying just one of these tactics… maybe the one suggestion that really jumped out at you. Or, the one you feel is most important to you right now. Or, it could be the one that you feel would be easiest to start with.
Whichever you choose, if you begin making at least one these changes, you are on the right track. Make an appointment with a naturopathic doctor.
By Neal Malik, DrPH, MPH, RDN, Chair of Basic Sciences and Nutrition at Bastyr University California.