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Prediabetes is very common in the South Asian population and can be diagnosed using a fasting glucose test or a 2 hour glucose tolerance test.
In a fasting glucose test you must not eat or drink anything for 12 hours overnight and have your blood drawn in the morning. If you glucose is over 100, this means you have prediabetes and if it is over 126 you have diabetes.
In a 2 hour glucose tolerance test you will be asked to fast for 12 hours overnight and have blood drawn in the morning. The lab will then ask you to drink liquid glucose which will taste like orange soda and have more blood drawn 2 hours later. If your glucose level is over 140 this means you have prediabetes and if it is over 200 you have diabetes.
What causes Prediabetes?
The body does not use insulin effectively and as a result sugar cannot get into the cells, this in turn causes blood glucose levels to rise which can lead to immediate and long term problems.
Why is Prediabetes more common in South Asians?
South Asians are less likely to be physically active. Unhealthy food choices and a lack of exercise lead to overweight and obesity which causes prediabetes and then diabetes.
A healthy weight for South Asians is a body mass index of less than 23.
If you have prediabetes you are more likely to develop diabetes and have a higher risk of heart attack which is both preventable with changes to lifestyle and medications.
Treatment of Diabetes
Prediabetes can be prevented and treated by reducing your weight through keeping your energy intake less than your energy expenditure.
South Asians should aim to exercise daily:
- 10,000 steps per day.
- 30-60 minutes of exercise at least 5 times a week
- Combine aerobic and weight training
- Six 10 minute walks per day is as good as a one hour walk.
Healthy eating for South Asians
The South Asian Food Pyramid is a great guide to help you choose healthy foods. Healthy carbohydrates have fiber; look for at least 3 – 5 grams of per carbohydrate serving. Sometimes even when a label says whole wheat or grain there is still not a lot of fiber in them. Fiber keeps your blood sugar level lower and keeps you fuller longer.
Examples of healthy carbohydrates include:
- Rotis made of whole wheat flour
- Whole wheat couscous, spelt, quinoa, amaranth
- Soy or white gluten
- Sprouted beans
- Non fat yogurt
- Egg whites
- Skinless white chicken meat
- Unsalted almonds, groundnuts, walnuts, cashew nuts, pistachios
- Seeds – pumpkin, sesame, sunflower, flax
- Plant oils – canola, olive, peanut, sesame
- Soy, tofu
- Mackerel, sardine, tuna, salmon and herring
- Broccoli, winter squash
- Blood Pressure