It had been five years since my last thorough blood workup. My new doctor wanted to make sure my cholesterol and blood sugar were in good ranges.
I felt great, have never smoked and was at a healthy weight. Still, we both thought a quick snapshot of my numbers might be a good idea.
The doctor ordered a fasting blood glucose test. I fasted for 12 hours, and then went to the clinic and had some blood drawn. Easy as pie.
A few days later, a message popped up on my phone. "Your labs are in. You need to call us right away."
The unwanted news: I was diagnosed with prediabetes.
I shouldn't be terribly surprised. I fall into several risk categories. But I work hard to defy others. And I was completely without symptoms, which I've learned is not unusual.
Prediabetes means my blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to be diabetic. This puts me at higher risk for heart disease and stroke. And unless I adjust my lifestyle, I could be among the 15 to 30 percent of people with prediabetes who develop full-blown diabetes within five years.
Diabetes is a chronic condition. There is no cure, and it requires a lifetime of self-care and vigilance. Those with diabetes may develop eye problems, nerve damage, kidney disease and other complications.
Well, that's not for me. Not if I can do something about it. My doctor says prediabetes can be reversed with lifestyle changes.
Here are the most common risk factors for diabetes and how they fit my particular case:
- Older age: Yes. The risk goes up after age 45. I'm 57.
- Obesity: No. My body mass index (BMI) is a healthy 20.5. (It's good to know your BMI. A web search will show you several reliable government sources for calculators, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Just enter your height and weight and you'll get an instant score.)
- Family history of diabetes. Yes. My father (he's 85) and sister (age 60) have diabetes.
- Prior history of gestational diabetes. A marginal yes. I was prediabetic when carrying my second child. But that was 22 years ago.
- Impaired glucose tolerance. I had no history of this, and there's no way of knowing except with a blood test. My blood glucose was 110 mg/dL, which is well into the prediabetes range. (Normal is below 100 mg/dL. Prediabetes is 100-125 mg/dL. Diabetes is 126 mg/dL or above, all with a fasting blood glucose test.)
- High blood pressure. Yes again. I've had it for five years, but it is easily managed with a medication.
- High cholesterol. Yes again, another surprise in the blood tests. The standard range is a reading of up to 199 mg/dL. Mine was 237.
- Physical inactivity. Guilty. The risk gets higher if you are exercising less than three times a week. While I'm always on the go, I don't go to a gym. I walk about a half a mile on my commute each day. But I don't get close to 150 minutes a week of moderate activity. Nor do I exercise all the muscle groups twice a week. Those are the guidelines for U.S. adults.
- Race/ethnicity. No. I'm not among the higher risk groups, which include African-Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, American Indians and some Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
So, what's a girl to do? Here's how my doctor and I are determined to keep me healthy.
Get moving. Given my commute and work schedule, I sit an awful lot. I need to work regular exercise into my day.
What I'll do: I plan to get up a few minutes earlier and do a mile loop around the neighborhood most days. I'll start with a brisk walk and work up to a jog. The dog will thank me for it! With luck, the weather in our snowy state will cooperate.
I'll also dust off the exercise mat, pull out my hand weights and use a resistance band for strength-training at least twice a week. I have all these things, so there's no excuse not to use them.
Eat better foods. I kid myself that I've always been on the DASH diet — I dash all day from one activity to another. But kidding aside, the DASH diet is a great eating plan for me.
Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) is not a diet in the traditional "lose 10 pounds" sense. The DASH diet promotes eating more fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy and whole grains. It suggests limited amounts of red meat, processed meat and sweets.
And, of course, I have to stay away from salt, fatty and fried foods.
What I'll do: Doctors say small changes can really add up. So I'm starting with small, manageable shifts in my routines. For me, the goal is not weight loss, but changes in my body chemistry due to what I eat and how efficiently my body uses that energy.
I've ditched my favorite quick snack: an eggroll from the nearby Chinese place. That treat, while small, is exactly the kind of high-fat food I need to cut out. I'm having a grapefruit or a banana instead. The fruit is filling and there are plenty of veggies that I can make ahead and bring to work.
Second, I've cut down on deli meats, always a quick standby but loaded with sodium, which is bad for my high blood pressure. Instead I'll eat reduced-fat low-sodium cheese atop a salad.
Third, I'm going to eliminate red meat for a while. I don't eat much, perhaps two or three servings a week. But out it goes, in favor of leaner chicken and more proteins like lentils and low-fat cottage cheese.
And fourth, in my hurry, I often grab a frozen "diet" entree. While I choose varieties low in calories, fat and sodium, they don't give me the nutrition of leafy greens and fresh food. So I'm taking a vacation from those little meals-in-a-box.
It's a positive change to really think about my food intake now that I have a health outcome in mind. Nutritionists call this mindful eating. And I've downloaded a weekly food journal to accurately record what I eat each day.
Eye health. I'm also going to schedule my yearly eye test. I want my eye doctor to know of my diagnosis so we can make sure there are no complications from my elevated blood sugar.
I'll check back in a few months and report any surprises along my journey. My goal is to get my blood glucose below 100 mg/dL, maintain my weight and add exercise into my day. Wish me luck — or, that is, willpower!
Created on 01/09/2013
Updated on 01/09/2013
- American Diabetes Association. Standards of medical care in diabetes – 2012. Diabetes Care. January 2012 35 Supplement 1 S11-S63.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Prediabetes.
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health. Complications of diabetes.
- National Diabetes Education Program. Diabetes risk factors.