Jefferson County, Colo. — In Colorado, 1,342,000 adults — more than one in three — have prediabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. Without intervention, many people with prediabetes could develop type 2 diabetes within five years. But even though prediabetes can have serious health consequences, most people with the condition don’t even know they have it.
On World Diabetes Day (November 14), Jefferson County Public Health (JCPH) is encouraging people to take the Prediabetes Risk Test and know their risk. The risk test walks through key factors that can increase a person’s chances of having prediabetes.
Prediabetes is a health condition where blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not high enough yet to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes. Risk factors for prediabetes include being overweight, being 45 years or older, having a parent, brother or sister with type 2 diabetes, being physically active less than three times a week, ever having gestational diabetes or giving birth to a baby who weighed more than nine pounds, and being of certain racial and ethnic backgrounds. In addition to type 2 diabetes, people with prediabetes are at increased risk of developing heart disease and stroke.
“Prediabetes often flies under the radar,” said Elise Lubell, Director of Health Promotion and Lifestyle Management at JCPH. “There are no clear symptoms, so many people don’t even know they have prediabetes until more serious health problems show up or until they get screened. That’s why we’re encouraging everyone to find out if they could be at risk, and if so, to talk to their doctor.”
Sam Valenzuela, a lifelong Jeffco resident, grew up around diabetes. Several members of her family, including her father, have either type 2 diabetes or prediabetes, and she’s seen the impact it has on their daily lives. So when she was diagnosed with prediabetes about a year and a half ago, she knew she needed to make a change.
“My first thought was, ‘OK, my life is over,’” Sam said. “Then, I thought, ‘This is the time where you make changes in your life.’”
So that’s exactly what she did. If you have prediabetes, there are many things you can do to prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes, such as losing weight, eating healthier foods and drinks, becoming more physically active and stopping smoking.
For Sam, changing habits “cold turkey” didn’t work. Making meaningful changes meant starting with baby steps. She started adding more fruits and vegetables to her meals, and swapping sugary snacks for healthier options. When she realized how much added sugar was in trail mix, one of her favorite snacks, she even started making her own version with raw proteins bought in bulk from the store.
“The more drinks I replaced with water, the more foods I replaced with healthy alternatives, the better I felt,” she said. “I think the key is mindfulness. Being mindful of what I’m putting in my body, being mindful of inactivity.”
To be more active, especially since she works a sedentary job, Sam started standing to stretch every hour. After long bouts at the computer, she takes walks around the block. She also started practicing yoga, something that has not only become an exercise she loves, but also a way to relax and stay mentally and emotionally healthy.
But the activity that tops her list is walking and hiking with her fiancé and their very energetic dog Leela — two of her biggest supporters in her journey to a healthier life. Their goal is to someday conquer at least one of Colorado’s 14ers together.
“Jeffco is the most beautiful backdrop for getting motivated,” Sam said. “From the sunny days to the parks and open space, I think we’re just in the best state to get out and get active.”
Resources for Preventing Type 2 Diabetes
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Diabetes Prevention Program (NDPP) is a lifestyle change program proven to prevent or delay type 2 diabetes. The NDPP is available at many locations in and around Jefferson County, including the YMCA of Metropolitan Denver and the Tri-County Health Department. View a full list of programs available throughout Colorado.
In addition to the NDPP, JCPH has many resources to support people in making choices for a healthier lifestyle:
About World Diabetes Day
World Diabetes Day was created in 1991 by the International Diabetes Federation and the World Health Organization in response to growing concerns about the escalating health threat posed by diabetes. It is the world’s largest diabetes awareness campaign reaching a global audience of over 1 billion people in more than 160 countries. Visit worlddiabetesday.org to learn more.
About Jefferson County Public Health
Jefferson County Public Health (JCPH) is committed to promoting health and preventing injury and disease for the residents of Jefferson County, Colorado. Public health is what we as a society do collectively to prevent illness and premature death and promote health in our neighborhoods and communities. To learn more about JCPH, visit https://www.jeffco.us/public-health. You can also follow JCPH on Twitter @JeffcoPH and Facebook @jeffcopublichealth.