When I was a child, I scored high grades in school. I always got a pat on my back. So, many years later, when I got a high score on my Hemoglobin A1C (A1C), I assumed that my doctor would do the same. It didn’t happen. Turns out in my mid-thirties, I got a diagnosis of pre-diabetes. With twice the normal A1C and sugar levels, I was at high risk to become a Type 2 diabetic. With guidance from a registered dietitian and diabetes educator and copious amounts of research, I put a diabetes management plan to execution. The outcome was one even I did not expect – reverse pre-diabetes.
‘High Blood Sugar’ – this phrase turns us all upside down; pre-diabetics and diabetics alike. It’s like being in a roller coaster with our hearts in our mouths with every sugar reading. Well, we don’t have to twist and turn in anxiety any more. Pre-Diabetes is reversible! I did it and so can you. The general idea is sustainable life style changes and a commitment to adhere to these changes. Before we learn more about these changes, let’s look at some diabetes terminology.
As of 2012, as per the American Diabetes Association (ADA), while 29 million Americans have diabetes, around 86 million have pre-diabetes. The health costs of diagnosed diabetes was 245 Billion USD.
Type 2 diabetes
As per the ADA, Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes in the world today. In this condition, the body has impaired glucose tolerance or is insulin resistant. This means that the body is unable to utilize insulin that the pancreas generates or produce enough of it to convert glucose into energy. This in turn causes a rise in blood sugar or glucose levels. In order to regulate these sugar levels, a healthcare professional may recommend a diabetes plan around lifestyle changes or may prescribe medications.
Pre-diabetes is an early indicator of the onset of Type 2 diabetes. In this condition, the sugar or glucose level is higher than normal but not high enough for a diabetes diagnosis. If measures are not taken to control sugar levels, pre-diabetics are at risk to develop Type 2 diabetes within 10 years. A healthcare professional may recommend a diabetes management plan around lifestyle changes to regulate sugar levels. We will take a closer look at these changes further below in this article.
Type 1 diabetes
According to the ADA, Type 1 diabetes covers 5 % of people who have diabetes. In this condition, the body does not produce insulin. Due to this lack of insulin production, treatment for Type 1 diabetes involves insulin therapies. Type 1 diabetes cannot be controlled based on recommendations in this article.
Let’s take a look at some broad ways to bust that sugar high and reverse pre-diabetes:
A positive Attitude is everything. Whatever measures we take to bring our sugar levels down and reverse pre-diabetes, and keep them there, our motivation and our drive to be consistent is what will make a world of difference. Identify a coach or a mentor to cheer you through this journey to reverse pre-diabetes. If you are looking for one, we are here for you!
I was so skeptical when I was asked to consult a nutritionist to lower my blood sugar. What can food changes do? Today, if I had to rank all of the factors that helped me reverse pre-diabetes, a healthy diet would be right at the top!
The overall idea is to follow a balanced diet plan, where starch and sugar is restricted. A sample diabetes diet plan would contain fresh fruits, greens, starch free vegetables, and protein from egg whites, milk, yogurt, lentils, legumes, fish and lean meat.
Timing is also important for a healthy diabetes diet plan. Try to have meals around the same time each day with a gap of 2-3 hours between meals. This includes breakfast (please don’t skip it), lunch and dinner and small snack portions of 100 to 200 calories each. Low GL fruits that help lower blood sugar prove to be an excellent choice for these mid meal bites. There are plenty of other diabetes friendly snack options for those mid-day or late evening cravings. We will learn more about diabetes friendly snack options and sample meal plans in a future post.
Here is something we would all love to lose! Shed those extra pounds and see the positive impact on your struggle with pre-diabetes. Weight loss helps boost our ability to use insulin better and become less insulin resistant. This eventually helps to lower and regulate sugar levels much better and is essential in our journey to reverse pre-diabetes.
It is important that we lose weight in a healthy way. The challenge is not just to lose weight but to keep it off. Our way is slow and steady and follows a disciplined approach towards diet, exercise and sleep.
There are options out there to lose weight too quickly with those magic pills or wonder workout videos promising 40 pounds off in 2 weeks. These quick-fix approaches may create new complications. We’ll share more on sustainable weight loss tips that suit the needs for both people with or without diabetes in a future post.
Walk, Bike or Yoga that sugar off! Walking provides amazing benefits to bring down sugar levels compared to any other form of exercise. In my experience, if I walk immediately after a meal for at least 20 minutes, it provides the best results for lower post meal sugar levels. Moderate paced walks are known to reduce sugar levels by as much as 1 mg/dl per minute. Adam Brown has shared some great insights co-relating walking duration to sugar levels.
Alternatively, Biking or Yoga are great forms of moderate exercise that provide immense benefits to lower blood sugar. Any intense forms of exercise such as cardio workouts, high interval intensity training (HIIT), cross-fit, running etc. may have varying impacts on sugar levels. Stay tuned for simple exercises for sugar control in a future post.
Try and catch least 7 to 8 hours of shut-eye at night. Sugar control and Sleep are tied in a vicious circle – If your sugar levels are high, it impairs your sleep. On the other hand, sleep deprivation impairs insulin production or impairs the ability of your body to utilize insulin and sugar levels rise. We all lead busy lives and yes, there is always something that keeps us up at night. Sleep is however one of the most important factors that needs our attention to help reverse pre-diabetes.
How do we sleep better to break this vicious circle? Stretch, take deep breaths, follow a relaxed routine to unwind before going to bed – there are more ways than one. If that does not work, here’s a funny one – clean the kitchen. Dr. Jack Lewis, a neuroscientist shares this hilarious insight – punish your brain to train it to sleep better. It does work! Mundane chores in the middle of the night condition our brain to learn to sleep better to avoid them. Want to learn about what more you can do for a good night’s sleep? Try these simple tips to sleep better at night.
Both Physical and Mental Stress have a profound impact on glucose levels in our body. Physical stress could be due to multiple factors – illness, injury, surgical procedures and a crazy travel or work schedule to name a few. Mental or emotional stress could be due to work or family pressure, relationship challenges or family obligations to name a few. When we endure stress, our body produces hormones such as cortisol and epinephrine in higher amounts to produce the required adrenaline and energy to counter stress. As a result, these hormones and prolonged stress episodes may cause a rise in glucose levels.
There are surprisingly simple ways to counter stress – meditation, take deep breaths, yoga, get some fresh air and time out in the sun, learn to say no, learn to cope with every day pressures in a healthy way. Making the best of stress takes practice and we will all get there. We will learn more about these techniques in a future post.
It is a subject of intense debate on whether diabetes is reversible or is in remission. The central premise of this debate is that your sugar control challenges will recur if you do not consistently follow these life style changes. However the key takeaway is that for Type 2 pre-diabetes, healthy lifestyle changes enable you to live diabetes free or delay the onset of diabetes. The experts concur.
In 2001, the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) study took a look at the impact of diet, exercise and weight loss on 3234 pre-diabetics. This study found that 58% of the participants reduced their risk of type 2 diabetes onset by a mere reduction of 5 to 7% of their body weight. 15 years later, an extension study reports similar findings. Based on this DPP study, we also have CDC recognized lifestyle change programs to prevent or delay onset of type 2 diabetes.
In 2017, Canadian researchers shared study findings that prove that life style changes can enable Type 2 diabetes reversal/remission. If you would like to review further, these study findings are available in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism
The lifestyle change tips in our article can stave off the need for medication or reduce ongoing medication dosage. In our book, these small victories take on a life of their own and clinch a bigger victory in our tireless journey for better health. It is indeed possible to reverse pre-diabetes if you pay consistent attention to areas discussed in this article.
We look forward to share more on each of these areas in future posts. Stay tuned!