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Prediabetes Wake-Up Call: A Personal Road Map to Prevent Diabetes

Prediabetes Wake-Up Call: A Personal Road Map to Prevent Diabetes

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Prediabetes Wake-Up Call: A Personal Road Map to Prevent Diabetes

237 pages
4 hours
Feb 22, 2006


With prediabetes at epidemic levels, millions of people are being told by their doctor to take personal action now, before it's too late. Prediabetes Wake-Up Call provides the newly diagnosed patient with detailed information about the threat of type 2 diabetes while explaining the lifestyle changes that will lower the risk of prediabetes developing into diabetes.

Prediabetes Wake-Up Call describes the facts about diabetes and includes assessment checklists and charts to help readers identify areas of relative risk. Then the author details specific strategies to address each risk factor, including weight management, exercise, and food choices, plus less-obvious strategies such as formulating new attitudes towards healthy living. Written for a lay reader, Prediabetes Wake-Up Call offers guidance, sets goals, and provides the reassurance necessary for readers to start getting healthier today.
Feb 22, 2006

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Prediabetes Wake-Up Call - Beth Ann Petro Roybal




My doctor said I have prediabetes. But she didn’t really tell me what to do about it. Sound familiar? That’s what my friend Jaimie mentioned while we were talking about the type 2 diabetes workbook I had just finished writing. A few days later, I was trying to justify my absence from my son’s baseball game. I explained to one of the coaches, Russ, that I was scheduled to discuss diabetes and health writing at a community writers’ forum. He backed off immediately, saying, Hey, you know, my dad has diabetes. My wife and I are both borderline. And I’m worried about my two kids.

It seems that every time someone finds out that I write about diabetes, they have a story or two to share:

My mom has diabetes…

My grandfather had to use insulin…

I had diabetes while I was pregnant…

My doctor says my sugar is high…

I wonder if I’m at risk? I noticed that…

What’s your story?

All of us have reason to be concerned. An estimated 17 million people in the United States actually have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes—that’s 1 person in 17. And 20 to 40 million more of us are borderline—belonging to that huge category between health and diabetes called prediabetes. Epidemic is not too strong a word to apply to this growing medical crisis. But why do the numbers keep rising? Why is that road to diabetes getting so crowded? Is developing diabetes practically inevitable these days?

I have these questions, too—and not just because I’m a health writer. My mom has diabetes. My aunt died of diabetes-related complications. I’m a few pounds overweight. I’m not as active as I used to be…. Bottom line: I’m definitely at risk. So I was excited when Ulysses Press asked me to write this book about that not-quite-healthy, not-quite-sick condition called prediabetes. It gives me an opportunity to tell you how type 2 diabetes develops slowly over a long time, how prediabetes can be diagnosed years before diabetes occurs, how you can tell whether you’re at risk, and what you can do about it if you are.

I’m not a medical professional. But I do know how to research medical information and present that often-overwhelming medical techno-talk at a level you can both understand and use. My goal is to help us help ourselves along the road to better health. For your part, I ask only that you take prediabetes—and the chances of its developing into diabetes—seriously. That’s because diabetes can be a nasty disease, going hand-in-hand with heart problems, blood vessel damage, nerve damage, and other serious health problems. You are in the perfect position to do something NOW to prevent or delay all this. As my friend Jane said, The thing, as you well know, is that most of America either has prediabetes or is heading there. For me, it was a wake-up call. And she didn’t even know it was the title to this book!

Use This Book as Your Travel Guide

A prediabetes wake-up call may have gotten your attention, too. Now that you’ve awakened and taken notice, what’s next? It’s time to get moving…on the road toward a healthier way of life. The route you take to deal with prediabetes is a personal one, based on your own circumstances, preferences, and needs. Use this book to inform yourself about what that road ahead might look like and the many strategies from which you can choose to reach your destination: lower blood glucose levels and better health.

My guess is that you’d rather not have to read this book at all—preferring instead to hit that snooze button and go back to sleep, not having to worry about something as uncertain and scary as prediabetes. But, as you’ll find out along the course of reading this book, failure to change your direction now can lead to even bigger health problems down the road. I’ve tried to make reading this book more of a pleasure and less of a chore—I don’t like to read stuff like this, either! Here are some features that I hope you’ll appreciate and perhaps even enjoy:

Conversational language with true stories and personal examples

Travel talk to describe how prediabetes and diabetes develop and how you can head back toward a healthier destination

Stop & Think! boxes contain powerful statistics about prediabetes and diabetes

Buzzwords likely to spew from the mouths of your health care providers, underlined in the text and defined more fully in the Learning the Buzz section at the end of the book

Support Team boxes provide suggestions on how your road crew—the people in your life—can better support your choices for better health

Questions for Consideration at the end of each chapter, to help you reflect on what the information might mean for your travel toward health

Once you have made it through this travel guide, feel free to share your thoughts—especially what helped and what didn’t—as well as stories from your own prediabetes journey. Send any feedback or comments to me in care of Ulysses Press, P.O. Box 3440, Berkeley, CA 94703. They’ll be sure I get it. Or reach me more directly through my website: www.bethroybal.com.

Wishing you happy, healthy travels,



From Pre to D—A Slow, Winding, Bumpy Road

Think about good health, prediabetes, and diabetes as if they were different sections of the same road. You may have started off healthy enough, cruising along through your life’s journey enjoying the view. But over the years, small, almost unnoticeable problems arose: gaining a little extra weight, not watching what you eat, becoming less active, dealing with other health concerns, taking care of everyone but yourself…. Then one day, you reach a sign that says:

The sign is so big, it’s hard to ignore. And so are the bumps, potholes, cracks, and other obstacles in the road that you’ve been noticing. But the warning might still be surprising to you. How in the world did you get to such a place, anyway?

Actually, the goal is for you NOT to get there—to find a way back toward the smooth road and good health. I’ll start by giving you an idea of how that road got so rough in the first place, how prediabetes and diabetes occur. The short story is that prediabetes and diabetes are conditions that result when your body can’t properly digest and use the food you eat. The levels of sugar in your blood remain consistently too high. The full version is a bit more complex. It’ll take us about three chapters to explain the basics:

Chapter 1 describes how your body digests and uses food.

Chapter 2 shows how the process of using food for fuel can go wrong, leading to prediabetes and diabetes.

Chapter 3 explains why you should care—what diabetes might mean in your daily life and to your overall health.



To take a long journey, you need a reliable vehicle. But that’s not all: The vehicle needs something to propel itself with—an engine. For a car, plane, or train, that engine takes the form of a motor. For a bike, rowboat, or skateboard, that engine is you. What makes the engines work? Fuel. What kind of fuel? Food.

The starting point for understanding how good health can turn into prediabetes and eventually even type 2 diabetes is to know how your body digests and uses the food you eat to make the fuel that powers you along, like the way your car’s motor turns gasoline into motion. The process is quite incredible, when you stop to think about it: You’re hungry. You grab something to eat, take a bite, chew, and swallow. Down it goes, into that dark, dank world known as your digestive system. Somehow, your body finds a way to use or store most of that food. The waste? Well, you know that end of the story….

The first question is this: What’s so important about the food you eat? And then, what happens to get food from your mouth to where the nutrients are needed? Let’s answer these questions in turn.

Food, Glorious Fuel

Whatever its taste, texture, or amount, all food is made up of various combinations of similar components: carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and vitamins and minerals. Food may contain other parts, too, such as alcohol and other substances that have yet to be discovered. Let’s take a closer look at the groups of nutrients to see how your body uses them.

Carbohydrates for Fuel

Believe it or not, every cell of your body uses carbohydrates. Even more: Every cell of your body needs carbohydrates. These carbon-containing substances originate from plants. And plants rely on photosynthesis, the unique process of using light to help create energy—specifically, to change carbon dioxide and water into carbohydrates.

Carbs provide the energy for plants—and eventually for us humans, as well. Carbohydrates also help plants maintain their structures, serving as the equivalent of an animal’s skeleton or shell. Carbohydrates are divided into several groups, usually classified as sugars, starches, cellulose, and gums. We’ll simplify this to three: sugar, starch, and fiber.

What are all these carbs good for? In the plant world, sugars are the fuels that plants burn directly for energy. Starches are stored fuel, waiting patiently in certain plant cells until they’re needed, at which time they, too, are broken down into sugars. Fiber is the stringy, chunky, bark-like stuff that keeps plants from flopping over and helps them retain moisture.

One day, a plant is harvested and turned into food for people. Some plants are used raw, like lettuce. Others are processed a bit, like rolled oats—or a lot, like finely milled and bleached wheat flour, which may then be used in a variety of baked goods.

You take a bite of that food. Chewing and mixing the food with saliva makes it break down a bit. But the real work begins once food hits your stomach and then travels through the rest of your digestive tract. Most of the carbs, especially the sugars and some starches, are broken down into fuel for your cells to use. Some are broken down quickly, others more slowly, depending on their particles’ size and complexity. The most common form of carb-based fuel is glucose.

Here’s what you need to remember about all this:


Break Down

Into Fuel

And that fuel is called glucose. You’re going to hear this word a lot, both in this book and out there in your real world—especially at doctor’s appointments and such.

Starches and fiber help regulate the sugar-breakdown process. Starches, remember, are stored forms of carbohydrates. So they can be changed into fuel, but

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