Prediabetes and Your Heart

By Charlyn Fargo

April 16, 2021 6 min read

If you've gotten the news that you have prediabetes, no doubt you panicked — at least for a minute or two. According to the latest federal data from 2016, one-third of U.S. adults have prediabetes. With prediabetes, blood sugar levels are higher than normal but lower than the threshold for a diabetes diagnosis.

The good news is prediabetes can be reversed by changing your diet (eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and low-fat dairy) and getting regular physical activity. For someone diagnosed with prediabetes, weight loss is key. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends weight loss of 5% to 7% (and regular exercise) to lower the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

There's another reason to take a prediabetes diagnosis seriously. People who reverse their prediabetes may lower their risk of heart attack, stroke and death, according to a new study reported by the American Heart Association.

Researchers from Tangshan People's Hospital in a northern province of China (where prevalence of prediabetes is slightly higher than in the U.S.) looked at more than 14,000 employees of a coal company, mostly men, over 11 years. Blood sugar was checked in 2006, 2008 and tracked through 2017. Between 2006 and 2008, about 45% of the participants reverted from prediabetes back to normal blood sugar. Another 42% stayed the same, and 13% progressed to diabetes.

In following the groups until 2017, researchers found that those who reverted to normal blood sugar had a 38% lower risk of heart attack and a 28% lower risk of stroke than those who progressed to diabetes. Their risk of dying from any cause during the follow-up was 18% lower than the risk seen in those who progressed to diabetes.

While this wasn't a clinical trial (so we can't say it applies to people outside of China), it is notable. The bottom line is that reversing prediabetes affects cardiovascular disease risk.

That's just another reason to start eating healthy, exercising and dropping a few pounds if you need to.

Q and A

Q: Are canned fruits and vegetables good to include in my diet, or should I only eat fresh?

A: We have all heard the message "fresh is best" when it comes to food. And choosing fresh and local foods is a great idea, but there's also room to include canned fruits and vegetables. When fruits and vegetables are used for canning, they are picked at peak freshness. A study by the University of Illinois found that frozen and canned fruits and vegetables had higher levels of some nutrients over fresh due to transportation and storage times. Canning may only minimally affect the amount of minerals, fat-soluble vitamins, protein, fat and carbohydrates in each food. The high heat used in canning may result in less water-soluble vitamins, but heat may also increase the concentrations of certain antioxidants, such as lycopene in tomatoes. So don't shy away from canned foods. They offer an easy, economical, shelf-stable way to include vegetables and fruits in your daily meals. Ideally, choose fruits canned in water rather than heavy syrup, and choose no-salt-added canned vegetables (or rinse them to reduce the sodium).

RECIPE

When I think of spring — and spring vegetables — I think of asparagus. Growing up, my parents had a huge patch. The first sign of spring came with asparagus popping through the soil. Mom was always hopeful it would happen in time for Easter. In central Illinois, that didn't happen this year, but there's plenty of fresh asparagus popping up in grocery stores. Here's a recipe from Today's Dietitian for a Smoked Salmon and Asparagus Salad. Serve it to celebrate spring!

SMOKED SALMON AND ASPARAGUS PASTA SALAD

Servings: 6

3 ounces smoked salmon

1 small bunch fresh asparagus (about 20 spears)

8 ounces orecchiette pasta

11/2 tablespoons olive oil

Juice from 2 lemons

1 teaspoon crushed tarragon leaves, dried

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons feta cheese

Ground pepper, to taste

Bring a large stock pot of lightly salted water to boil over high heat. Cut salmon into thin strips, and set aside. Trim asparagus, and discard ends. Cut the spears, on the diagonal, into 2-inch pieces. Add pasta to boiling water, and cook al dente for 8 minutes. Drop asparagus into water during last 3 minutes of cooking. While pasta cooks, mix the oil, lemon juice, tarragon and mustard in a small bowl with a whisk. Drain pasta and asparagus into a colander, and immediately run under cold water. Transfer to a serving bowl. Pour the dressing over the pasta, and toss together Add salmon and feta, and mix gently. Top with ground pepper. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.

Per serving: 204 calories; 9 grams protein; 31 grams carbohydrates; 6 grams fat (1 gram saturated); 6 milligrams cholesterol; 2.5 grams fiber; 2 grams sugar; 340 milligrams sodium.

Charlyn Fargo is a registered dietitian with SIU Med School in Springfield, Illinois. For comments or questions, contact her at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @Nutrition Rd. To find out more about Charlyn Fargo and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

Photo credit: atlantis0815 at Pixabay

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