If you're among the 79 million Americans with prediabetes -- higher-than-healthy blood sugar levels that pave the way for diabetes and other health concerns -- we've got sweet and sour news.
The sour news? New evidence says high levels of blood sugar double age-related brain shrinkage. That translates into shrinkage of memory and thinking skills.
The sweet news? It's easier than ever to say "no thanks" to prediabetes. Small upgrades in your life (a little weight loss and a little activity) work best. They slash your risk of progressing to diabetes by at least 58 percent; drugs manage only a 31 percent improvement.
Wondering if you have prediabetes? One in three adults does -- including half of all people over age 65. Yet fewer than 10 percent of these folks know that their blood sugar is creeping into the not-so-sweet danger zone. So before you say, "Hey, Dr. Mike and Dr. Oz: How did I get diabetes?" get hip to what raises your risk.
The hit parade: being older than 44, a bit overweight, exercising fewer than three times a week, eating fried food or red meat more than once a week, having close blood relatives with diabetes or having a family background that is African-American, Hispanic, American Indian, Asian-American or Pacific Islander. Women who've had gestational diabetes or who have delivered a baby weighing 9 pounds or more also are at higher risk.
If any of those MOs sounds familiar or if you're feeling run-down, hungry, thirsty and have some vision issues, it's past time to get your blood sugar level checked.
If you find out your numbers are even a bit high, try these steps to bring them down:
» Lose a little. Shed 7 percent of your body weight -- that's 15 pounds if you now weigh 220! It's enough to shrink deep abdominal fat, which churns out inflammation-boosting compounds. Those culprits interfere with your body's ability to process blood sugar, or as we docs say, "Fat, especially abdominal fat, promotes insulin resistance."
» Trade one TV show for a walk ... or move while you watch. A half-hour stroll instead of those daily reruns of "Friends" is all it takes to lower your risk for diabetes by 30 percent. Sitting on your bum watching TV for two hours a day raises your risk by 23 percent -- a great reason to march in place or spin while watching "NCIS"!
» Sip something new. Switching from sodas to seltzer flavored with a squeeze of lemon or a tall glass of water doubles your chances for losing weight. You sidestep sugars that boost blood glucose and fire up diabetes-promoting inflammation.
» Snack at the farm stand. The fiber! The vitamins and minerals! Being a produce fan cuts your risk for blood-sugar problems by 30 percent. Pair juicy, fresh fruit and veggies with whole grains (blueberries on your oatmeal, fresh tomatoes over whole-grain noodles).
» Go nuts. Almond butter at lunch, crunchy almonds in your morning yogurt, a handful of walnuts for a late-afternoon snack -- these nuts contain good fats and help your blood sugar, too.
» Choose smart fats. Try a diet with your only fats coming from odd-numbered omega fatty acids. Omega 3s (found in canola oil, salmon, walnuts and avocados) and omega-9s (in olive oil) may be a key to reversing prediabetes. Also, supplementing with DHA omega-3s and purified omega-7 seems to decrease triglycerides, and some early human studies indicate that purified omega-7 also may lower LDL cholesterol and inflammatory markers, reduce insulin resistance and boost HDL.
» Find your tribe. We're excited about diabetes-prevention programs at YMCAs, hospitals, community centers and other locales. They let you meet other smart people who are on a mission to slash their diabetes risk and give you the chance to work with a trained diabetes-prevention coach. Some insurance companies cover these programs; we think they all should! To find one near you, check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's online locater atcdc.gov/diabetes/prevention/
Dr. Mehmet Oz is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Dr. Mike Roizen is chief medical officer at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. For more information, go to realage.com.