Get inspired by four women who turned their lives around with only a few key moves.
What if you were on the path to developing a potentially life-threatening disease—and didn't know it? According to a recent report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that might be the case for more than one in three American adults who have prediabetes, a symptomless condition in which the blood sugar is elevated but not high enough to be defined as diabetes. Eventually, it can progress to type 2 diabetes, which increases your risk for heart disease and stroke, as well as vision problems, nerve damage and other problems.
The good news: You can beat prediabetes and prevent it from morphing into type 2 diabetes by making simple lifestyle changes. Losing just 5 percent to 10 percent of your body weight (if you're overweight) and exercising more reduces your risk of developing diabetes by nearly 60 percent. Taking action is especially important for women, who have a 40 percent to 50 percent higher chance of developing heart disease after a diabetes diagnosis than men do, according to recent research. The following four women heeded early warning signs and made life-saving changes.
'My pregnancy put me at risk'
- Name: Carolyn Ketchum, 41
- Residence: Wakefield, Mass.
- Risk Factor: Gestational diabetes
- Biggest temptation: bread
- Highest A1C (glycated hemoglobin): 5.8
- Lost: 0 pounds (weight loss was not a factor)
"I don't fit your usual profile of someone with diabetes, because I've always been slender and active. So I was surprised when I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes while pregnant with my third child. As soon as I got the news, I began watching my carbs and testing my blood sugar daily. After I had Maggie in 2009, my endocrinologist suggested I continue testing. Everything seemed within range, but two months later, I started to see my blood sugar climb if I ate any carb-heavy food. In April 2010, I learned I was prediabetic. I recall sitting at my computer in tears, thinking food would never be fun again. I was devastated."
Change Is Good
"I saw firsthand what a big difference exercise makes when I had gestational diabetes—even a short walk would bring my glucose down by 30 to 40 points. After my prediabetes diagnosis, I also started doing CrossFit and my numbers dropped another 10 to 15 points. I felt absolutely triumphant, so I decided to take exercise and healthy eating to an entirely new level. I went mostly gluten-free, because so many gluten-laden foods tend to be high in carbohydrates—which is too much for my blood glucose levels. To be honest, sticking with a new plan wasn't all that easy, but I stayed home after I had Maggie, so I had time to make our food from scratch. I also became a runner at the ripe old age of 37, and now do 10Ks and half-marathons regularly."
No More Grain Drain
"Now that I'm following a low-carb, gluten-free diet, I feel a lot less sluggish. In fact, I don't think that I could ever go back to a regular diet built on grains, though I do know that whole grains are healthy for some people. I am accountable to myself, and now that I've become a food blogger, I am also accountable to my readers, who look to me for advice on how to cook and bake and enjoy good food while keeping their blood sugar in check."
"Don't underestimate the power of exercise. A 15-minute walk can drop your blood sugar so much!"