So you just got back from the doctor, and your blood work didn’t look good. Your fasting glucose was 110: not diabetic, but not normal either. Your triglycerides were 195, your HDL cholesterol was 35, and your blood pressure has crept up to 130/90. Despite repeated warnings from your doctor, your waistline has continued to expand, maybe partly because you can’t find time to exercise, and you find it nearly impossible to go much more than a day without sweets or snacks of some kind.
If you look back at my first post on prediabetes, you’ll see that elevated blood glucose, high triglycerides, low HDL, moderately high blood pressure, and a growing waistline are all potential indicators of a steady march towards diabetes. However, steady does not mean inevitable. It is well within your power to reverse this process, especially now, before actual diabetes kicks in.
Your first step should be to get moving. You don’t need to join a gym or become a triathlete to get the benefits of exercise. In fact, the first thing you need to do is stop sitting still. If you ordinarily sit at a desk for hours at a time, working or just surfing the web, get up and move around every hour or so. The more vigorously you move around, the better: Climb the stairs a couple of times, or just get your blood moving. Same thing if you’re a couch potato: Hit the pause button, or use commercial time to move around. If people ask what you’re up to, tell them you’re trying to be more active to get in better health. There’s every chance they’ll (secretly) admire you, and they may even be brave enough to admit they would like to do the same thing.
Of course, it also helps to get regular exercise, and it’s hard to beat walking for convenience. Walking daily, or even most days of the week, is a great physical activity. If you have a more intensive workout routine, that’s great.
Second, don’t eat while you’re vegging out. If you’re on the couch, or locked into an intense online game, don’t accompany your leisure activity with empty calories from sweet or salty junk food. If you have to eat, have raw vegetables or fruit, which are nutrient-rich without all the calories, sugar, and salt.
Third – and I was tempted to put this first – your diet is going to need an overhaul. Prediabetes is the result of something called insulin resistance, meaning your cells are sluggish, leaving too much sugar and insulin in your bloodstream (rather than pulling it out of the bloodstream and using it up). This is how you end up with prediabetes and type 2 diabetes.
The first step is to cut out (or cut back on) empty calories and carbohydrates from junk food, white bread, rice, and potatoes, sweets and the like. The second step is to replace these foods with healthy plant foods: whole grains, beans, non-starchy vegetables (peas, corn, and potatoes don’t count as veggies), fruits, and nuts. Transitioning to this eating style of real – rather than manufactured and processed – food can’t usually be accomplished overnight. It’s important to see this as a long-term project, and to measure your results over months and years, not days.
Consult with a nutritionally oriented health-care professional if you feel you need more detailed guidance.