What you don’t know can hurt you – Take control of your Health

In November 2015, I wrote about my wake-up call to take control of my health.  My frequent appointments as a pregnant mom in the years preceding caused me to skip my yearly physical exams.  For four years, I didn’t have a physical exam and had zero knowledge of the processes occurring inside my body.  As far as I could tell, I was a healthy female runner.  I recently finished the Marine Corps Marathon in under 4 hours weighing in at 106 lbs! Who would have thought right?  Ever heard of ‘skinny fat’ or ‘thin on the outside, fat on the inside’ syndrome? You can read more about it on my past post, Am I Skinny Fat?  When you read this post, you will see how shocked I was to learn about my blood profile results – triglycerides higher than ever and my A1C levels close to pre-diabetic. Absolutely unexpected!  At this moment, I knew something had to change starting with my dietary habits.
A year later, I waited in the lab for my blood draw.  Even though I felt confident in a positive outcome, part of me wondered if I did enough to improve my levels.  When I found out the results showed normal levels, I was ecstatic and more than relieved.  Finally, I was taking control of my health.
Why do I bring attention to the subject of prediabetes and diabetes? Unfortunately, in the past month I found out two people I know are pre-diabetic/diabetic.  1.4 million Americans are diagnosed with diabetes every year according to the American Diabetes Association.
In order to raise awareness, I decided to re-write an old post.  A call-to-action to get your blood tested for early detection and prevention of diabetes.  It begins with a warning to Asian-Americans but truly it applies to the the rest of the population.
A startling headline from an article in the LA Times printed in April 2016:

Doctors’ message to Asian Americans: Watch out for diabetes even if you’re young and thin!

The article discussed the scientific research to support the findings that Asian Americans are at a high risk of developing Type 2 partly due to genetics at a lower BMI and younger age.  Many are undiagnosed because of the expectation that people who suffer from the condition are middle aged and obese.

Fact:  8.1 million Americans have undiagnosed diabetes (27.8% of diabetes is undiagnosed)

This was a cause of concern for me – I am Filipino and had gestational diabetes during both pregnancies which increases the risk for Type 2 diabetes. Referring back to the post, Am I Skinny Fat, I revealed my A1C result was at the borderline for prediabetes.  It sparked the motivation to change my lifestyle habits with regards to nutrition and strength training – two important elements for improving insulin sensitivity.  The good news is Type 2 diabetes is preventable and insulin resistance (condition of type 2) is reversible.

These are the lifestyle habits I’ve implemented as I continue on my journey to prevent becoming a statistic:

1. Take charge of your health and GET TESTED.  There are many ways to have your blood glucose evaluated – walk-in labs, at-home A1C testing (not sure of the accuracy), and of course with your doctor.  It’s better to find out now if you have high blood glucose so you can take preventive actions.

FACT: 86 million Americans aged 20 years or older have prediabetes. 9 out of 10 don’t know they have it.

2.  Assess your NUTRITION.  What you feed your body affects its overall function.  Plenty of resources from articles online to books are available to help in finding the right type of diet for you to prevent and reverse diabetes.  It will be a lifestyle change as I’ve already discovered, a process that will require effort to choose wholesome foods as well as a balance of macronutrients (protein, carbs, healthy fats) to avoid blood glucose fluctuations.

3.  We’ve all heard the phrase “EXERCISE IS MEDICINE” – RUN, WALK, BIKE, MOVE!  The timing is important as well. Studies have shown walking as short as 20min after a meal decreases blood glucose levels.  Check Ben Greenfield at Get-Fit Guy’s article (and podcast) on How to Control Blood Sugar with Exercise.

FACT: As many as 1 in 3 American adults will have diabetes by 2050 if present trends continue 

4.  STRENGTH TRAIN for muscle gain.  The LA times article makes a good point with regards to Asian Americans body type – “Asians tend to have less muscle and more fat than Europeans of the same weight and height.  So an Asian who isn’t obese or even overweight could have enough fat to be in danger of getting diabetes, a phenomenon sometimes referred to as ‘skinny-fat'”  Abdominal fat is a warning.  If you carry weight around your waist, then let it be a signal that your body has converted the extra glucose to body fat – visceral fat (abdominal or belly fat). Visceral fat is a major contributor to insulin resistance.

What my body looked like in 2015. Even though I weighed less than 110lbs, you can see the fat concentrated around my torso.

The good news is with strength training and proper nutrition, you can say goodbye to belly fat.  Strength training has positive effects on blood glucose control.  More on strength training in the Get-Fit Guy’s article on How to Control Blood Sugar with Exercise.

Current weight is still less than 110lbs but put on more muscle

5.   Get your ZZZZZZssss.  Yet another reason why SLEEP is so important.  According to research from a Science Daily article, one night of insufficient sleep can cause a reduction in insulin sensitivity by 33%!  Guess this has been an issue for me the past five years since the girls were born – thankfully they are better sleepers now and my goal is to get at least 7 hours of sleep.

As you can see, this subject is near and dear to my heart.  Raising awareness is the first step for prevention. If you know someone that could benefit from reading this post, please consider sharing it.
Other resources I’ve found with useful information:
Do you go in yearly for a physical exam?  When was the last time you had a blood test?  
Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor or registered dietitian.  This post is to promote awareness and provide motivation to take charge of your health.  I based my approach on information I read online and learned in a podcast. Please consult with your doctor if you have concerns about your health.

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