Being in the pink of health doesn’t guarantee that you wouldn’t get pre-diabetes. Find out whether you’re at risk, and what you can do about it.
You may be working out three or four times a week and think you’re making healthy food choices most of the time, but that doesn’t mean you’re safe from diabetes.
Even if you’re not experiencing symptoms of diabetes, you may well have its silent precursor: pre-diabetes. That smoothie you had at breakfast and the fruit juice you had at lunch – those seem like healthy options, but the sugar content adds up.
We’re all guilty of having a sweet tooth, but we often don’t realise how much sugar we’re actually consuming. And it’s not just sugar that’s the culprit. A host of other factors that include family history of diabetes, a sedentary lifestyle, and an excessive consumption of red or processed meat can set you on the path to pre-diabetes.
What’s pre-diabetes again?
Pre-diabetes is a condition where your blood glucose (aka blood sugar) levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be in the diabetes range. It’s a precursor to Type 2 diabetes and can affect anyone.
When the amount of glucose in your blood is too much for your body to break down and insulin hormones to absorb, that’s when Type 2 diabetes occurs. Individuals with family history, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, and a BMI of 23.0 and above are at higher risk of developing this condition.
According to the National Health Survey 2010 conducted by the Ministry of Health, one in nine Singaporeans aged 18 to 69 has diabetes, while one in seven from the same group has pre-diabetes.
While diabetes comes with tell-tale signs like constant thirst, bad breath, fatigue, blurry vision, slow-healing cuts and yeast infections, and the need to pee more often, pre-diabetes comes with no warning signs. Yes, you read that right. So, there’s a legit chance you might have pre-diabetes without even knowing it.
It’s more prevalent than you think
An extrapolation based on the National Health Survey 2010 shows that about 440,000 Singapore residents aged 18 and above had diabetes in 2014, and the number is estimated to grow to one million in 2050.
If left unattended, 35 per cent of those with pre-diabetes will develop diabetes over the next eight years, and potentially develop complications like coronary heart disease and stroke.
The scary part about pre-diabetes is that, unlike diabetes, it has no symptoms, which means you might have it for years without knowing. Even if you exercise and eat your greens diligently, your sedentary office lifestyle, lack of quality sleep as well as certain dietary choices might still put you at risk.
These reasons alone should make you sit up and start making sure you’re not headed towards pre-diabetes or diabetes.
If you are between the ages of 18 and 39 years, take this 2-minute assessment to find out whether you are at risk of developing diabetes.
The good news is…
Pre-diabetes is reversible. Not everyone with pre-diabetes will develop Type 2 diabetes. So, it is important to take action as soon as you are diagnosed with pre-diabetes, to prevent it from developing into Type 2 diabetes.
Start by practising these healthy lifestyle tips.
Swap processed foods with whole foods.
Opt for low-fat, high-fibre foods such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and go for low glycemic index (GI) options like brown rice, oats and wholemeal bread instead of refined carbs like white rice, pasta and white bread. High-GI foods can spike your blood sugar level and then send it plummeting. Repeated spikes in your blood glucose level can lead to an increased risk of pre-diabetes and Type 2 diabetes.
Choose whole fruits over juices.
Fruit juices are typically made from multiple servings of fruits, which means you’re consuming more sugar than you would have if you ate a piece or two of fruit. Plus, most of the fibre and nutrients are lost when fruits are blended into juice, so you’re basically consuming a sugar-laden drink without much health benefits.
Move more than you think you should
Exercising helps to lower your blood glucose level, and also increases your body’s sensitivity to insulin, the important hormone that helps to regulate blood sugar in your body. Aim to lock in 30 to 60 minutes of moderate to high-intensity activity five times a week.
Maintain a healthy BMI.
If you are overweight, it’s best to get started on a weight loss programme even before you’re diagnosed with pre-diabetes. Losing just five to 10 per cent of your weight through healthy eating and regular exercise can significantly reduce your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. Maintaining a healthy weight will not only reduce your risk of pre-diabetes and diabetes, but it will also lower your risk of other diseases such as heart disease and stroke.
Go for regular health checks.
Since pre-diabetes has no noticeable symptoms, it’s a good idea to get yourself checked regularly. Early detection allows for timely intervention, and will give you a higher chance of reversing diabetes and/or preventing complications from arising. Take the 2-minute Diabetes Risk Assessment every two years, to ensure that you remain at low risk of developing diabetes. For those aged 40 and above, the Health Promotion Board (HPB) recommends going for health screenings for chronic diseases such as diabetes once every three years. Check out HPB’s Screen for Life for more info.
-Brought to you by the Health Promotion Board-