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Are you on the path to diabetes?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 84 million Americans now have prediabetes. What’s scarier is that nine out of 10 don’t even know they have it. Are you one of them?

If left untreated, it can lead to heart disease, stroke and Type 2 diabetes. However, the exciting part is that prediabetes can often be stopped before it becomes diabetes ... or even reversed. Prediabetes occurs when your fasting blood sugar (glucose) is higher than normal but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes. It’s usually diagnosed from a finger-stick test called Hemoglobin A1C. You can get it from your local pharmacy or medical practitioner. The test measures the amount of hemoglobin with glucose attached. The more attached glucose, the higher the number on the test.

The American Diabetes Association provides the following general guidelines for A1C levels: Below 5.7 percent is considered normal, between 5.7 and 6.4 percent is considered prediabetes, and 6.5 percent or higher on two separate tests indicates Type 2 diabetes.

Prediabetes should be a wake-up call that your body can’t handle the carbohydrate load you’re eating (not even the portion that’s made up of healthier carbs). According to the CDC, without intervention during the prediabetes phase of the disease, it’s common for many people to develop Type 2 diabetes within five years of the prediabetes diagnosis.

It’s important to use the following steps to lower your blood sugar:

First, get more activity. Moving your body will lower your blood sugar naturally. Start with a daily 5-minute walk and try to work up to 20 minutes. The future (and healthier) you is counting on you moving your body. So, set an alarm and make it happen. If you’re already walking or moving, your next step is to add in strength training. Muscle allows you to metabolize carbohydrates much more efficiently. Second, ditch all processed sugar and refined flour. Decreasing inflammation will significantly help lower blood sugar levels. Your goal for “added sugar” should be 9 teaspoons, or 35 grams, of added sugar per day for men and 6 teaspoons, or 25 grams, of added sugar per day for women. For example, a 20-ounce Coke blows your sugar budget for the next two days, as it has 60 grams of sugar, which is a large volume of sugar for your body to deal with at one time.Moving and cutting your added sugar are two important first steps to get you started with reversing prediabetes. The next step to continue your prediabetes reversal is to begin a sustainable, anti-inflammatory eating plan.

It’s okay if you’re a little overwhelmed by all of this. Remember, you never have to do it alone; there’s always help available. Anyone who has reversed prediabetes will tell you how much better they feel. They’ll also tell you about the peace of mind they have since stepping off the path to diabetes.

Fran Sutherlin is a local registered dietitian, health coach, speaker and owner of Sustainable Nutrition, which has offices in Durango and Bayfield. She can be reached at 444-2122 or fran@fransutherlin.com.