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It's possible! Reversing diabetes before it takes hold!

By Dr Shalini Jaggi
Last updated on: November 13, 2014 18:27 IST
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Just by making a few simple changes in your diet and lifestyle you can reverse diabetes and avoid the many problems that come with being diabetic.

The World Diabetes Day is on November 14. Dr Shalini Jaggi, Senior Consultant, Diabetology, from Delhi-based Sri Balaji Action Medical Institute gives a simple guide to tackle the spread of this lifestyle disease.

Priyam (name changed) is a bubbly 29 year old engineer. Last year she was diagnosed with pre-diabetes. She was distraught; She knew she was overweight, both her parents were already diabetic, but she never thought it could affect her too!

World Diabetes Day

Photograph: oklanica/Creative Commons

She was a big foodie and loved indulging her sweet tooth and lived a carefree life.

With this diagnosis coming as a shocker, she decided that she would reverse her pre-diabetes and set things in order. She resolved to follow a better and healthier lifestyle. With rigorous exercise and a balanced, healthy diet she was able to reverse her condition and leads a much better life now.

A 2011 study by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) estimated that India already had 62.4 million (6.24 crore) living with diabetes and what was more disturbing was that there were 77.2 million people who were pre-diabetic.

Pre-diabetics are the so-called healthy people who would eventually become diabetics over a period of time adding on to the already exploding numbers in our country.

Pre-diabetes indicates a higher than normal blood sugar level, but not high enough to be classified as Type 2 diabetes.

Pre-diabetes technically is defined as a fasting blood glucose level between 100-125mg/dl, or a random blood glucose level between 141-199 mg/dl or an HbA1c between 5.7-6.4 per cent.

If not kept in check, pre-diabetes progresses to Type 2 diabetes in less than 10 years. Not just that, the long-term damage to your organs associated with diabetes, especially to your heart and circulatory system may already have started at the level of pre-diabetes itself.

The good news is -- it’s still reversible. Pre-diabetes is a golden ticket for you not only to prevent diabetes but also to improve your overall health and lifestyle. It is your window of opportunity -- like an alarm bell warning you that the bomb is ticking -- you can diffuse it before it explodes!

How can you reverse pre-diabetes? The condition can be easily reversed with some simple lifestyle changes, such as:

Get active

Move more. While you’re watching TV, keep the remote away so you have to get up to reach for it. Pace around while talking on the phone or do some stretching in between commercials.

Try to fit in 30-45 minutes of exercise or walk for at least five days a week; staying active will get rid of lethargy and give you more energy for other activities.

Shed those pounds

If you’re overweight, exercise to lose the excess weight. Maintaining a healthy weight range or even shedding a few pounds has shown that it can cut your chances of getting diabetes.

Even a 10 per cent weight loss from baseline significantly reduces your insulin resistance and improves your blood glucose levels.

If you’re not one for conventional exercises try something offbeat such as aerobics, dancing or swimming. Play a sport like badminton or football or cricket.

Eat clean

Load up on those fruits and vegetables; opt for less-starchy ones like spinach, broccoli, carrots and green beans.

Include a lot of high fibre foods such as oats and flax seeds.

Go for whole grains instead of processed grains; choose brown rice instead of white.

Change your diet to include low calorie versions of milk, yoghurt, cheese and salad dressing. Avoid heavy snacking between meals. If you do get the hunger pangs, reach for a piece of fresh fruit or whole wheat crackers smeared with some peanut butter or low fat cheese.

Sleep like a baby

Short sleep durations make it difficult for your body to use insulin effectively, increasing the likelihood of Type 2 diabetes.

Set your sleep and wake timings and stick to it.

Relax before lights out.

Avoid watching TV or browsing the net when you’re trying to fall asleep.

Avoid having caffeine post dinner if you have trouble sleeping.

Enjoy at least 6-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep in the night to keep you fresh and loaded with energy all through the day!

Get support

Getting a support group to help you keep your weight loss goals in mind and motivating you can be very helpful. It helps to be around people who are dealing with the same condition as it opens up avenues for discussion, problem-sharing and exchange of effective strategies.

These steps should be followed not just by those diagnosed with pre-diabetes, but anyone who wants to avoid getting diabetes.

Just by making a few simple changes in your diet and lifestyle you can reverse diabetes and avoid the many problems that come with being diabetic such as neuropathy, retinopathy etc.

Your body is a temple. Treat it well and you’ll reap the benefits.

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Dr Shalini Jaggi