November 16, 2015

Prediabetic? We share some basic ways to help prevent diabetes.


Diabetes is affecting more and more people, with Tennessee ranking No. 2 in the nation. That’s because in spite of a decline in obesity in Tennessee, we still rank as having the 14th highest adult obesity rate in the nation. Additionally, 20.5 percent of our kids aged 10 to 17 are obese. That rate places us fifth in the nation, according to Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation obesity report.

Ashley Shoemaker, assistant professor of pediatrics at Vanderbilt, explains how obesity contributes to diabetes by increasing insulin resistance.

“When the body is resistant to insulin, it has to release larger amounts of insulin to do the same job. When the body can’t make enough insulin to overcome the resistance, blood sugars begin to rise, causing prediabetes or even diabetes,” she says. “Over time, the body may lose the ability to make these large amounts of insulin, causing the diabetes to worsen.”

So, what can we do to help prevent diabetes? If you or your child has been diagnosed prediabetic, take these steps to reduce your risk today and in the future.

1. Move more: Exercising is one of the best ways to help prevent diabetes. Shoemaker recommends all children get a minimum 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day. If exercise is a new activity to your family, don’t fret.

“The good news is progression to diabetes can be slowed or even halted with lifestyle changes,” Shoemaker says.

Nashville is home to a number of community centers that offer fitness programs for the whole family. Find one near you to get started on your path to health.

2. Lower your weight: In addition to increasing your activity levels, weight loss can decrease insulin resistance and improve blood sugars.

“Just 10 pounds of weight loss can cut your risk of developing diabetes by half,” Shoemaker says.

Sometimes we need more than just a gym membership to help lose weight. The Vanderbilt Center for Medical Weight Loss is a comprehensive weight-loss program designed to deliver long-term results. A team of experts will help personalize a plan to get you to your weight loss goals.

3. Eat better: You’ve heard it before, but it really is important: Eat your fruits and veggies. Shoemaker recommends filling half your plate with fruits and vegetables and avoiding processed foods high in added sugar.

Not sure what new vegetables to add to your meal? Join a local CSA. You’ll get fresh produce from a Tennessee farmer, and often your bounty comes along with a newsletter that offers recipe ideas.

4. Avoid sugary beverages: They may taste great, but your body certainly doesn’t appreciate them.

“In particular, we recommend against regular consumption of sugary beverages including juice, sweet tea, flavored milk, soda and sports drinks,” she says.

Need something with more flavor than water? The American Diabetes Association suggests some healthy alternatives.

5. Stay in touch with your doctor: Previously, type 1 diabetes was referred to as “juvenile diabetes” and type 2 diabetes as “adult diabetes.” But Shoemaker says type 2 diabetes now accounts for 20 percent of newly diagnosed pediatric diabetes.

“Pediatric type 2 diabetes may be more rapidly progressing than adult diabetes, meaning that children may progress to insulin-requiring diabetes sooner than adults,” she says.


To find a diabetes specialist to help you prevent diabetes, visit the Vanderbilt Eskind Diabetes Center. The center provides complete care for children and adults.