The US. Preventive Services Task Force has issued valuable guidance to overweight or obese individuals, ages 35-70, who want to take the best approach to their health care in managing, or even preventing, pre-diabetes or diabetes. Screening, according to the task force, of American Indians, Alaskan Natives, Blacks, Hispanics/Latinos, and Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders should happen at even younger ages, because of their increased risks.
The best news is that the recommended screening tool is a simple blood test called A1C, or hemoglobin A1C, or HbA1c. This test measures one’s average glucose level over a three month period. Higher levels, of this marker in our blood, are linked to complications from diabetes, which can reduce one’s quality of life and length of life by affecting the functioning of our organs, and eyes.
Glucose is a form of sugar, produced by our bodies when we consume calories. Glucose is the fuel that runs all of our cells, and without it we cannot survive. The key is to not have an over-abundance of this fuel. Consuming too many calories can cause the over production of glucose, more than our bodies can handle- perhaps due to insufficient, or an absence of, insulin, the hormone that helps glucose enter our cells to fuel them.
The hopeful news is that we can often lower our glucose levels by making different choices. We can choose to eliminate all soft drinks and fruit juices [instead, substituting sparkling water and whole fruits], eat more plant foods than animal products, eat less fat [the most densely caloric nutrient], and burn more calories by moving more…even walking, or doing housekeeping and gardening. A plant based diet usually contains fewer calories than one primarily containing animal derived foods. The key is delicious calorie management, and moving more, to burn more calories, and keep A1C levels in a safe range.
Health care providers can prescribe medications to help manage A1C levels, but lifestyle changes can sometimes prove to be as effective, especially if elevations in A1C are detected early. Collaborating with a credentialed nutrition professional, can provide a satisfying, individualized approach to glucose control, keeping us healthy and energetic for many years to come.
Dateline: Latham, Town of Colonie, Albany County, New York State