EST. 4 MIN READ
Medically Reviewed by Dr. Robert Graham
Receiving a prediabetes diagnosis is a scary wakeup call that comes with a heavy dose of reality, but the good news is you can do something about it. Prediabetes does not mean you’ll get diabetes. In fact, with lifestyle changes and new habits, you can significantly lower (and possibly reverse) your risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes.
First Up: What is Prediabetes?
According to the ADA, prediabetes is diagnosed when people have blood sugar levels that are higher than normal, but not high enough to be considered diabetes. While there are not often associated symptoms, overweight individuals are more likely to be diagnosed as prediabetic as they potentially share symptoms with diabetes that would cause them to get tested.
Once tested, prediabetes results are indicated with an A1C of 5.7%-6.4%, a fasting blood sugar of 100 - 125 mg/dl, and an Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (OGTT) 2 hour blood sugar of 140 mg/dl - 199 mg/dl.
It’s important to note that just because you’ve been diagnosed with prediabetes, it’s not guaranteed you’ll develop Type 2 Diabetes. In fact, early treatment could possibly reverse your diagnosis. It is important to treat time as a valued asset and to take action quickly.
Now, What to Do?
- Lose Some Weight: According to research, you can reduce your risk of Type 2 Diabetes by 58% if you lose 7% of your bodyweight. For someone at 200 pounds, that’s 14 pounds. Totally achievable.
- Get Moving: Exercising for 30 minutes a day, five days a week can lower blood glucose, improve cholesterol levels, and help your body to better use the insulin it’s already making. If 30 minutes at a time is too much, try breaking it up into shorter periods, totalling 30 throughout the day. Eventually, you’ll work up to longer sessions and higher intensity. Remember, it won't happen overnight, but your body will get stronger and you’ll slowly be able to level up.
- Know it’s not your fault, but it is your responsibility. There are a lot of factors that can contribute to whether or not you’re prone to prediabetes or not. Lifestyle, food choices, sleep, stress, etc. are all part of it, but so is genetics. Unfortunately, the association between Type 2 Diabetes as a result of being overweight is too watered down. Yes, healthy eating is a big factor, but it’s not everything when we consider insulin resistance and a body’s ability to produce enough insulin to control blood glucose.
- Manage Your Blood Glucose: What you eat, how much you eat, and when you eat directly impact your blood glucose levels and one way to understand how your blood sugar is directly impacted is to use a Continuous Glucose Monitoring system (CGMs). These small devices track your glucose throughout the day and night, providing you with dynamic data you can track. By monitoring your levels before and after specific meals, you can begin to see patterns between things like food and exercise.
- Clean Up Your Diet: You might want to talk to your doctor or a dietician about setting up a specific, sustainable meal plan (we’re not talking fad diets here), or you can follow a diabetic diet as a general rule of thumb. Overall, you want to make sure you aren’t consistently overloading your diet with foods that spike your blood sugar (causing your body to work overtime with insulin to re- regulate your blood sugar). This could be as simple as adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet, cutting out simple carbohydrates, processed foods, and anything high on the glycemic index.
Since prediabetes allows for sugar from your food to build up in the bloodstream, it’s as important to consider what you’re eating as how much you’re eating.
- Eat high-fiber foods: like vegetables, beans and legumes
- Eat low-glycemic index foods: steel cut oats (not oatmeal), whole wheat (not white), non-starchy vegetables, sweet potatoes (not potatoes)
- Drink water, not sugary drinks
- Eat lean meats: cutting out saturated fat looks like removing the skin from meats, cooking in a mediterranean style, using less oils, eating fish and tofu.
More than anything, it’s important to know a prediabetes diagnosis is not a diabetes diagnosis and there is room for you to take control, make changes, and create new habits that beneficially impact your blood sugar levels, potentially reducing your risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes.