A 55-year-old patient comes into the clinic for a checkup. As I begin to assess this patient’s health, I begin to notice that there are some issues. The patient is overweight, has high blood pressure and their cholesterol level is running high. A few more tests and it becomes clear, they are at risk of diabetes. I tell them they have “pre-diabetes” and they look puzzled.

According to the Centers for Disease Control National Diabetes Fact Sheet from 2011, 35 percent of American adults over age 20 have pre-diabetes. Of adults over age 65, 50 percent have pre-diabetes. This amounts to 79 million people nationwide!

Pre-diabetes means your fasting blood sugar is running higher than it should, but not enough to qualify as diabetes. The body is trying to keep the sugar down, but it is not quite keeping it low enough. If we checked your sugar after meals they might also be running high. The problem causing this will begin to raise your blood pressure, age your arteries faster and wear out the pancreas (the organ behind your stomach where insulin is made).

The problem begins when individuals put on weight, eat too much sugar and stop being physically active. During the years of pre-diabetes, there are no symptoms to warn us of the developing problem. Our fat cells become less and less sensitive to the effects of insulin. It gets harder and harder to pack the sugar into the cells. People begin to feel hungry, so they eat more, and the problem worsens.

What is the solution? Lose weight, eat less sugar and more fruits and vegetables, and, of course, exercise. I will be perfectly honest: Taking control of this is hard, but the chance of becoming diabetic is high. The consequences of diabetes are very serious, including: heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure, blindness, kidney disease, nerve disease, amputations, gum disease, pregnancy complications, depression and difficulty walking.

I, myself, have been working on changing habits to lose weight. My latest effort has been successful. I have lost 20 pounds using a specific technique that combines diet and exercise.

What has worked for me will not work for all but what does work is eating healthy and exercise. I encourage all my patients to consider healthier eating and exercise and finding what works for them. Include more fruits and vegetables into your diet and get rid of things like excessive carbohydrates or sugars. Take a 10- to 20-minute break each day and get up and walk. You don’t need to spend two hours at the gym or go to yoga seven days a week. Just 20 minutes a day will do wonders!

Much of what I’m suggesting is just changing habits. Good habits take time to build and you have to be patient. Eating healthy and exercising are simple techniques. Do something good for your soul and body while you lose some weight and prevent diabetes from developing. If you can change these habits now, you’ll save yourself a lot of potential health issues down the road and avoid pre-diabetes.

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