Theres a hidden sugar crisis thats sweeping the country, and were not talking about whats lurking in the nearest vending machine (although that does contribute to the problem). Were talking about the 80 million North Americans with prediabetes; a condition that is characterized by higher-than-normal blood sugar levels.
Prediabetes is a risky condition: It doesnt just put you in line for diabetes and all of its complications (which, of course, it does), but even before you develop full-blown diabetes, having slightly elevated blood glucose levels puts you at increased risk for heart disease and stroke, leg pain due to circulation problems, reduced kidney function and blood-vessel changes that can lead to vision loss and neuropathy (nerve damage), as well as sexual dysfunction and depression.
Unfortunately, only 1 in 10 people with prediabetes even know they have it. And just a quarter of those folks are taking advantage of their big opportunity (knock, knock) to launch their own health rescue initiative.
Scary statistic: Once youve got prediabetes (find out by asking your doctor for a fasting blood sugar test or the A1c test that measures average glucose levels over a three-month period), odds are youll develop full-blown diabetes within nine to 10 years.
Amazing fact: While more than 65 percent of North Americans have genes that predispose them to type 2 diabetes, its almost 100 percent preventable at the prediabetes stage and doesnt have to happen.
Heres how to move your blood sugar back into the healthy zone and sidestep the health risks of prediabetes.
Eat less beef. Simple, but its true. More beef on your plate equals more diabetes risk. Eating an extra three to four servings of red meat per week boosts your risk for developing diabetes by about 50 percent. A big, new study uncovered the connection by tracking the diets and health of 149,000 women and men for four years. The good news? Less beef equals less diabetes. Those who cut back even a little reduced their risk by 14 percent. Whats the connection? Could be the saturated fat, a Food Felon that blunts your bodys ability to absorb blood sugar, or simply that big servings of meat leave less room on your plate and in your stomach for diabetes-fighting goodies like whole grains, produce, fish and nuts.
Say yes to flavor, no to the Food Felons. One of the most powerful ways to increase the health power of food is to give your diet a taste of the old one-two: Knock out refined flour and added sugars and syrups, and then fill in the gaps with naturally tasty stuff such as spices and seasonal fruit. Its a great time for blueberries, blackberries and peaches. And indulge in the harvest of veggies such as sun-ripened tomatoes and green beans. For good measure, add flavorful, fiber- and nutrient-filled whole grains like quinoa and quick-cooking barley.
Whats so bad about sugars and refined carbohydrates? Another powerful new report spotlights the connection: In countries where people consume more sugary foods, diabetes rates are higher. For every extra 150 calories worth of sweetener (the amount in a 12-ounce soda) consumed daily, diabetes prevalence jumped by 1 percent. Turns out these empty calories increase your diabetes risk, even if you dont overeat, by firing up inflammation and insulin resistance so that your body cant easily use blood sugar.
Take a short walk after breakfast, lunch and dinner. Think you dont have time for a daily walk? Turns out that fitting in a short stroll (about 15 minutes) soon after you eat keeps blood sugar levels low and steady for the next three hours. The movement encourages your muscles to use more sugar from your bloodstream. Try taking your partner, kids and/or pooch out for some foot-powered fun after dinner. In some cultures, people go for a walk after a meal. Get out there, and start livin the real dolce vita!
Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of The Dr. Oz Show, and Mike Roizen, M.D., is chief medical officer at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. To live your healthiest, visit sharecare.com. Distributed by King Features Syndicate Inc.