One of the tools I use to help keep myself from getting worse is testing my blood sugar (blood glucose) at home. Most of the time, it is not recommended for people with prediabetes (also called "impaired glucose tolerance") to test their blood sugar, but it works for me. Here's why:
Blood Sugar Testing is MotivatingMy weight is stable (overweight, but lower than when I was eating more carbs), and my blood lipids (cholesterol, trigylcerides, etc.) only get tested once a year, so there aren't many opportunities to monitor how my eating affects my health. Keeping my blood sugar in the normal range is a great goal that I can achieve on a daily basis. Seeing good numbers is my little reward for eating well and exercising.
Learning About my Body's Responses to FoodsEvery body is a little different when processing foods. Will that carrot make a difference? How about one square of dark chocolate? When I'm trying a new food, it's especially helpful to find out how much it raises my blood sugar.
Preventing "Carb Creep"One of the common mistakes on low carb diets has been called "carb creep," where little by little, carbs are added to the diet, until suddenly we are over our limit, gaining weight, and feeling less good. Monitoring my blood sugar is a good way to nip this in the bud -- when my blood sugar is creeping up, you can bet my carbs are.
Staying HealthyMore and more studies are showing that even for non-diabetics, blood glucose matters. Even "normal" blood glucose that is elevated from "optimum" can put us for higher risk of, for example, heart disease and Alzheimer's disease, and perhaps some cancers and other chronic diseases. The
How I Do ItBlood glucose monitors aren't expensive (there are often rebates), and they are easy to use. You use a little "pen" -- just push the button and it pokes you enough to get a small drop of blood. The test strips ARE ridiculously expensive, however -- as much a $1 per strip. My insurance won't pay for mine, but I do have a diabetic friend who gives me her extras. I understand that some insurance companies will pay for prediabetics to have test strips.
If I didn't have access to test strips, I think I would buy enough to at least do a fasting blood glucose once or twice a week, and some food testing. Additionally, I might push my insurance company harder -- after all, it's in their best interest that I not get diabetes!
Optimum Blood GlucoseDr. Richard Bernstein says we could shoot for normal, non-diabetic levels of blood glucose. This is a fasting level of about 85, and a hemoglobin A1C of about 4.6%. Interestingly, this is the blood sugar level above which risk for heart disease starts to rise, according to at least one study. My levels are not that low, but I am still finding tricks to bring them down.
Diabetes tends to be progressive. I hope that by eating well and exercising I can prevent prediabetes from becoming diabetes, or at the very least slow the process waaay down. My blood glucose meter tells me how I'm doing.
Selwin, Elizabeth, Coresh, Joseph, et al. "Glycemic Control and Coronary Heart Disease Risk in Persons With and Without Diabetes." Archives of Internal Medicine. 165/16 (2005)