A Pre-Diabetes Diagnosis and How to Fight BackOctober 19, 2020
You Have a Pre-Diabetes Diagnosis, Now What?
What does it mean when you get your blood checked and your doctor tells you that you have a pre-diabetes diagnosis? The first thing my typical patient says is “What does that mean? I either have diabetes or I don’t!”
A pre-diabetes diagnosis is really a golden opportunity – it is a chance to get your blood sugar under control!
A pre-diabetes diagnosis is your body’s way of telling you to watch out because once diagnosed as diabetic, a complex, lifelong care plan is needed to keep you in tip-top shape. This is your chance to avoid that (and who wouldn’t want to).
Ways To Take Control Of Your Health From a Pre-Diabetes Diagnosis
Know Your Numbers!
A pre-diabetes diagnosis is made from two blood tests: a fasting blood sugar test or an A1C test. A fasting blood sugar test measures the glucose in your blood at that particular moment in time – think of it as a grade on a test.
An A1C test measures a percentage of blood sugar averages translated into a percentage over a period of about three months – think of it as the final grade at the end of the semester. You might also see the A1C test called an HbA1C test or a Hemoglobin A1C test. The fasting blood sugar test might be used to start and then repeated another day if higher than normal.
The A1C test may be used by itself or to confirm the result of a fasting blood sugar test depending on your doctor and your own health history. Pre-diabetes is diagnosed with a fasting blood sugar result between 100-125 mg/dl and/or an A1C between 5.7-6.4%.
Keep track of these either in a note book, on your smart phone in a notes app, or even in one of the various health apps on your smart phone. These can help you stay organized over time and allow you to check in on your progress, along with your doctor.
Join A Program!
Research has been done over decades so that we know exactly how to treat pre-diabetes. The Diabetes Prevention Program, or DPP, showed that lifestyle changes with improved diet and exercise with even a modest weight loss of 5-7% of body weight significantly reduced the risk of having diabetes, even ten years later.
In comparison, people who made no diet or exercise changes or were put on medication alone did not show as much improvement and were often on their way to becoming diabetic as a result. This research helped launch the National Diabetes Prevention Programs meeting rigorous standards by the Centers for Disease Control – some are offered in-person, online, or even a combination to meet your preferences. Find out if you’re eligible to participate.
Create An Action Plan!
Lifestyle changes can be tough because they are habits accumulated over a lifetime. Don’t feel overwhelmed - reflect on one change in your diet and one change in your exercise habits.
Do you have a sweet tooth and need a daily fix of a pastry to satisfy your craving? Cut back to every other day, make a healthier choice, or cut a smaller portion. Are you a soda fanatic? Cut the serving in half, water it down, or go cold turkey.
Never exercised a day in your life? Start a walking routine and add on intensity, frequency, and duration slowly but surely. Write down your plan, share them with your support squad, and get people on board with these changes – both for their own health and to help you stay on track.
Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Based. Let’s say your action plan says you need to eat more fruits and vegetables and instead, turn that into something like “I will add steamed vegetables to dinner five nights a week for the next month” and “I will walk for 30 minutes at lunch time four days a week for the next two weeks.”
Make sure your goal is achievable – if you hate steamed vegetables, don’t make that your goal! If you love swimming, don’t insist on walking. Keep track of your progress so at the end of your goals set time frame, you can reassess. Do you want to continue with the same goal or build on it somehow?
If you accomplished your goal of adding steamed vegetables to dinner, maybe you can add a salad to lunch, add an additional day of the week to have steamed vegetables for dinner, or start incorporating fresh fruit as a snack.
If you accomplished your walking goal, do you want to add more minutes to your walk, add an additional day, or start with another type of exercise like resistance bands? Keeping your goals dynamic will help you from getting bored and push yourself further than you could imagine for yourself.
Get Help From The Pros!
Never feel like you have to go at this alone – check out your health plans options or local community resources. Your health plan might connect you with a Registered Dietitian, Certified Diabetes educator, health coach, or health education class.
Local community resources might include a reduced fee or free exercise classes or healthy cooking classes. As a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator working in weight loss surgery, I’ve seen firsthand the profound effect weight loss these surgeries can have on common health issues like high blood pressure and diabetes. Consider a consultation with a surgeon if that is something you’d like to explore further.
Thinking of this like a blessing instead of a curse, a call to action instead of inevitability, a time to get moving instead of start sitting.
Surround yourself with positive people instead of people who don’t have your best interests at heart – they are not the ones who will have to manage your diabetes should you move in that direction. Use meditation phone apps, seek help from a therapist, manage anxiety and depression, or join a support group.
I have all the confidence in the world that anyone can make small changes to improve their health. Use these tips and put them into action.
ABOUT THE AUTHORRachel Lander-Canseco currently works as a bariatric dietitian at PIH Health in Whittier, California at the office of Justin Braverman MD, a bariatric surgeon with PIH Health Physicians. She loves her role in supporting patients having safe surgeries and successful outcomes. She is also a Certified Diabetes Educator and Certified Health Coach.