We eat 150 pounds of sugar a year, but it's not just sweets that have created a diabetes epidemic. You can also blame too-large portions, unhealthy carbs, not enough exercise, and processed foods: Sugar is hidden in unexpected places like ketchup, spaghetti sauce, salad dressing, bread, gravy, soups, and fat-free products. But it's not too late to beat the blood sugar blues. Here's how.
I walk every day, eat a healthful diet, and have no diabetes in my immediate family. I’m not model skinny (truth be told, I’ve been known to pack on a few extra pounds), but I’m certainly not a couch potato or junk food addict. So, imagine my surprise when a routine blood test showed that my blood sugar was elevated and I was officially prediabetic.
Prediabetic, meaning I have higher-than-normal blood sugar levels that put me at risk of developing diabetes, the seventh-leading cause of death in the United States. Yikes!
The fact that I’m not alone doesn’t make me feel any better57 million Americans have prediabetes and another 24 million have diabetes (90% to 95% of all diabetes diagnosed is type 2, which typically appears in adults and is associated with obesity, physical inactivity, family history, and other factors). Being part of what’s shaping up to be a diabetes epidemic in America isn’t a club I want to join.
Another wake-up call
It turns out that prediabetes isn’t really “pre” anything, according to Mark Hyman, MD, author of UltraMetabolism and The UltraMind Solution: Fix Your Broken Brain by Healing Your Body First. “It’s a danger in and of itself that sets off a whole cascade of problems,” he says. In fact, there’s now evidence that a prediabetic patient’s risks for eye, kidney, and nerve damage, as well as heart disease, are nearly as great as a diabetic’s, says Alan J. Garber, MD, chairman of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE) task force that’s currently writing new guidelines for managing prediabetes.
What’s more, diabetes can be especially dangerous for mothers and their unborn children, potentially leading to miscarriage or birth defects. Women with diabetes are also at higher risk of having a heart attack at a younger age. And elevated insulin levels have been shown to put postmenopausal women at increased risk of developing breast cancer.
The more I learned about diabetes, the more determined I was to lower my blood sugar levels. But how? What was I doing wrong in my so-called healthy life? Here’s what I found out that can help you, too.