Three ways to get on top of pre-diabetes and prevent heart damage
Pre-diabetes is a warning. It’s like a big flashing road sign that tells you the next destination is type 2 diabetes unless you take some action now.
But pre-diabetes doesn’t only lead to type 2 diabetes, it’s also a major risk factor for heart disease. This is because diabetes can change the chemical makeup of substances in the blood and this can cause blood vessels to narrow or clog up completely.
Fortunately, there are several things you can do to get your body back on track.
In this article, we’ve outlined three ways you can get on top of pre-diabetes before it leads to heart damage.
This information isn’t a substitute for medical advice, so please consult your GP or health care professional about your personal circumstances.
1. Check your average blood sugar levels
Pre-diabetes happens when your average blood glucose level is higher than normal but not high enough to be classified as having diabetes.
According to the Australian Diabetes, Obesity and Lifestyle Study, 1 in 6 adult Australians have pre-diabetes, that’s over 2.6 million Australians over 25 years of age – but many don’t know they have it because it has no obvious signs or symptoms.
This means one of the key ways to find out about and manage your blood glucose levels is with regular HbA1c (also known as A1c, glycohaemoglobin, and glycated haemoglobin) monitoring.
Measuring HbA1c shows your average blood glucose levels over the past eight to 12 weeks.
You can do this test via a traditional needle-in-vein blood test at a pathology collection centre, or via the MonitorYou Healthy Heart, at-home fingerprick service.
It’s important to keep in mind that a blood analysis that shows higher than normal blood glucose levels may need to be checked further.
For example, your doctor may order an Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (OGTT) to find out more about your glucose metabolism, providing a good indication of your future risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
2. Make some simple diet swaps
If you have pre-diabetes, what you choose to eat and drink can influence the risk of your condition progressing.
Studies from around the world have shown that some simple diet changes can have a big effect on blood sugar regulation for people with pre-diabetes.
For instance, foods with a high glycaemic index (GI) are digested more quickly leading to a greater increase in blood sugars after eating.
Research suggests swapping high GI foods like soft white bread for foods with a lower GI (less than 55) – like wholegrain bread or sourdough – can help manage blood sugar levels.
You can find out more about swapping high GI for low GI foods from The Glycemic Index Foundation’s Swap It Tool.
Swapping out your usual meals and snacks with lower GI foods along with more vegetables, fruits, and plant-based foods can also help you lose weight – which is another way to reduce your risk of diabetes and heart disease.
3. Get active and walk for 30 minutes a day
Walking more may seem like a simple answer, but it could make all the difference. Especially as more than half of Australian adults are not active enough.
Heart Foundation spokesperson for physical activity Adjunct Professor Trevor Shilton says being inactive increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes by 25-30% and shortens people’s lifespans by up to five years.
“Being active is a major tonic to help prevent and manage heart disease and other forms of chronic disease, which are responsible for the majority of deaths in Australia and around the world.”
Diabetes prevention programs have shown that when people make healthier food choices, drop their body weight by 5-10% and walk for about 30 minutes a day most days of the week, they lower their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by more than 50%.
According to the Heart Foundation, a low-impact physical activity like walking will help to:
- Reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke
- Manage weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol
- Prevent and control diabetes
- Reduce your risk of developing some cancers
- Maintain your bone density
- Improve balance and coordination