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Reduce Teens' Risk for Prediabetes Through Nutrition and Exercise

Tips for Reducing Prediabetes Risk in Teens | Abbott Nutrition

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Proactive Lifestyle Shifts That Can Reduce the Risk of Prediabetes in Teens

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FEB. 03, 2020   4 MIN. READ
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Prediabetes is increasingly affecting children and young adults in the United States. A new survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has found that around one in five adolescents (ages 12–18) and one in four young adults (ages 19–34) in the U.S. are now living with prediabetes.

People diagnosed with this condition have an excess of sugar in their blood, but not high enough to be called diabetes, which can cause damage to the heart, kidneys, eyes and nerves over time. They're also at an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes and the complications associated with diabetes. However, by incorporating good eating and exercise habits, this diagnosis can oftentimes be reversed.  

What Did the Study Find?

In examining the fasting blood sugar — glucose level after not eating for a specified period, usually overnight — of more than 5,000 participants, the researchers found that prediabetes was prevalent in 18% of adolescents and 24% of young adults. These individuals had a fasting blood sugar level between 100 and 125 mg/dl, which the American Diabetes Association (ADA) classifies as prediabetes.

The rate of prediabetes was higher in male participants, they found, and in those with obesity. Young Hispanic adults also had higher rates compared to young white adults. Participants with prediabetes had high levels of cholesterol, blood pressure and abdominal fat, and low insulin sensitivity.

What Causes Prediabetes?

Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that regulates the amount of sugar (glucose) in the blood. With insulin resistance, one of the most common causes of prediabetes, cells in the muscles, fat and liver don't respond well enough to insulin. As a result, glucose in the bloodstream isn't properly absorbed.

The pancreas will kick into overdrive to produce more insulin to manage this glucose. But if it can't, blood sugar levels will increase beyond normal levels. This can set the stage for prediabetes and, if left unmanaged, type 2 diabetes down the road.

There are certain lifestyle factors that may put one at risk for prediabetes, including:

  • Being overweight.
  • Eating processed foods with sugar, starches and saturated fats in excess.
  • Excessive stress.
  • Smoking.
  • Heavy alcohol use.
  • Poor sleep habits.
  • Exercising fewer than three times a week.

If type 2 diabetes runs in your family or you're 45 years old or older, you may be at a higher risk for prediabetes. Scheduling regular visits with your doctor can help you keep tabs on your blood glucose levels and ensure it stays within a normal range.

What Prevention and Treatment Options Are There?

If your doctor says you're at risk for diabetes, here's what you need to know.

There are two types of diabetes. Type 1 is an autoimmune disease in which the body doesn't make insulin. It's usually diagnosed in children and young adults. Those with type 1 diabetes must take insulin every day to manage their blood sugar. Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body doesn't make or use insulin well. It's the most common form of diabetes and is usually diagnosed in adults.

Prediabetes can develop into type 2 diabetes. But with these simple lifestyle shifts, you can take charge of your health and better manage your blood sugar.

  • Adjust your eating plan:

     Being mindful of what you're eating can make a huge difference. For instance, increasing your intake of fiber-rich fruits and vegetables may reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Using the healthy eating resource by the ADA can help you put together well-balanced meals with proper portions. A registered dietitian as well as other healthcare professionals can help you craft a nutritious eating    plan.
  • Be a role model:

     If you have young children who are also at risk for prediabetes, you'll want to empower them to make smart eating and lifestyle choices. Children learn by example, so you'll want to model these behaviors at home. Cook healthy meals as a family, leave a fruit bowl out on the table, or go on nightly neighborhood walks. Make a healthy lifestyle a family affair.
  • Work exercise into your daily routine:

     You don't need to spend hours at the gym to boost your wellness. Start simple by doing activities you enjoy, such as taking your dog for a walk, dancing around the house, or playing hide-and-seek with your kids. Aim for 30 minutes of activity a day, which can also be broken up into three 10-minute periods.

If you have questions about prediabetes prevention or a diagnosis, don't hesitate to reach out to your doctor. Additionally, you can try Glucerna's free Ask a Dietitian online chat service or participate in the CDC's National Diabetes Prevention Program.

Remember, neither prediabetes or diabetes has to disrupt your life. By making slight lifestyle changes and proactively seeking out information, you can manage your blood sugar and keep your health in tip-top shape.

Diabetes and Immunity: How Prioritizing Nutrition and Muscle Health Can Help

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As we navigate cold and flu season with uncertainty remaining around the pandemic, it’s an important time to consider the best ways to support immune health. Immune system support is even more critical for people with diabetes as viral infections can increase inflammation and contribute to more severe complications, like we’ve seen with COVID-19.1 While many with diabetes already consider good nutrition a part of overall well-being and blood sugar control, some may be surprised about how their diet and muscle health can impact the immune system.

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Half of Americans Living with Diabetes May Not Get Enough Protein

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Like everyone else, people living with diabetes should strive to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet. You don't need to cook one meal for yourself and another for the rest of your family. Well-balanced meals, which include lean protein, vegetables, healthy fats, and whole grains, are healthy for everyone and help manage blood sugar.

When preparing those meals, it is important to prioritize protein.  Protein is a nutrient that has a minimal impact on blood sugar levels and has the added benefits of helping satisfy hunger. Try to aim for 20-25 grams of protein at every meal and find snacks with higher protein quantities.

new study from Abbott and The Ohio State University published in Nutrients that found that half of adults surveyed in the U.S. living with diabetes did  not get enough protein in their diet.

The study highlights protein intake as an essential and often overlooked consideration in meeting the nutritional needs of people living with diabetes and its importance in supporting strength and mobility. 

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