Prediabetes may be helped with lifestyle changes

I wasn’t really surprised at my diagnosis of Prediabetes shortly after I turned 79. After all, my brother and one of my uncles had Diabetes Type 2 for much of their shortened lives. Sadly, they both succumbed to complications of the disease.

Prediabetes diagnosis is intimidating

While I wasn’t surprised, I was apprehensive. I remember how difficult living with diabetes was for my family members, and how the disease ultimately led to early deaths for both. I remember the years of finger sticking, expensive medications,  and hospitalizations.

But that, I told myself as I headed for the pharmacy, was in the distant past, before so many new medical advances in the treatment of diabetes.  When you live as long as I have, you can take appreciate how rudimentary things were decades ago and appreciate today’s modern advances.

I was a little surprised at the simplicity of advice from my doctor in how to proceed after being diagnosed with Prediabetes: Fill the prescription, get a blood testing meter kit, and come back in one month for another blood test. It seemed simple enough; however, I harbored a deep fear of what was to come in a few years when the disease progressed to full-blown diabetes.

Research helped calm fears

Fortunately, one of the amazing advances in my lifetime has been the development of the Internet and Google. So once back home after I picked up the medication and meter kit, I settled in with a cup of tea in front of the computer to do a little research. I went directly to my favorite site for help with this one, MayoClinic.org. I typed Prediabetes in their search box and the Mayo Clinic, once again, did not let me down.

It turns out, according to the Mayo Clinic, that a diagnosis of Prediabetes doesn’t necessarily mean automatic progression to Type 2 Diabetes, even at my advanced age. According to the Mayo Clinic, Prediabetes is the condition diagnosed if your blood sugar is higher than normal but not high enough to be diagnosed as Type 2 Diabetes. Prediabetes can lead to long-term damage to the heart, blood vessels and kidneys. The good news was that I could take steps to prevent the progression to Type 2 Diabetes.

Eating healthy and exercising key to lowering blood sugar

From the Mayo Clinic Prediabetes web page:

“Eating healthy foods, incorporating physical activity in your daily routine and maintaining a healthy weight can help bring your blood sugar level back to normal.”

Could it be that simple?

I was determined to give it a try. I began testing my blood sugar daily using my new meter kit. My highest level was 156 and my goal was to get it down to as close to 100 as I could. The first thing I did was look at my diet and see what foods I could eliminate to lower my blood sugar levels.

This was rather daunting since I thought I already ate a fairly healthy diet. We ate fresh produce from our garden and animal protein provided by generous neighbors and friends who raise their own free-ranging livestock. I cooked almost everything from scratch, including baking my own bread. Initially I wondered if there were enough changes I could make to achieve my goal. As I researched, though, I noticed areas that had room for improvement. I focused on what and how often I ate and what exercises I could incorporate into my life to maximize the results I sought.

Making new choices into daily habits

The Mayo Clinic website advises to “Choose foods lower in fat and calories and higher in fiber. Focus on fruits, vegetables and whole grains.” I began to decrease simple carbs, increase the colorful vegetables, and reduce the portion sizes of whatever I ate. I wasn’t a soda or juice drinker, but I did increase my water intake, which is a good idea generally to avoid dehydration in seniors.

Next, I thought about what exercises I could  incorporate into my daily routine. Since I was 79, arthritic, had two artificial knees, Afib and other minor issues, I was not going in for strenuous exercising. I decided on walking because it would be easy on my joints. I also had a recumbent bike available and Qi Gong exercise DVDs for low-impact gentle exercises. The major hurdle with exercising is actually doing it. Like changing my eating habits, it would take determination, will power and the desire to be healthy. I had to change my priorities and set aside time for these new, daily activities.

Diet and exercise changes simple, but not easy

Yes, I realized, it actually is simple. But, as they say, simple is not always easy. Incorporating healthier eating habits and exercise into my life was a struggle at first. The exercise routine I chose was the easy part of preventing Type 2 Diabetes. I decided not to think about what I shouldn’t eat, rather I would stayed focused on all the good foods I was free to eat, in moderation.

In the beginning I practiced Qi Gong exercises after breakfast and supper. I took a long walks after dinner and rode my bike. Once the habits were formed it seemed effortless and was just my new way of life. As time passed I lost a few pounds each month. My blood sugar numbers lowered and I felt as well as I had in long time. So the effort to be as healthy as I could paid off for me and I continue to be diabetes free.

Talk to your doctor about Prediabetes. It’s important to keep in mind that Prediabetes can progress to Diabetes Type 2, which can have serious health consequences if left untreated. According to the National Institute on Aging, while some people can manage Type 2 Diabetes with diet and exercise, many people will need to take diabetes medication or insulin.

It is important to discuss your particular situation with your doctor to come up with your individual treatment plan if you are diagnosed with Prediabetes or Type 2 Diabetes.

Check out Smart Food Choices for Healthy Aging and Choosing Healthy Meals as You Get Older, as well as more information on Diabetes in Older People from the National Institute on Aging.

Photo  credit: Pixabay | RitaE

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