Diagnosed with prediabetes? How to prevent it from becoming diabetes

August 6, 2019 in Disease Management  •  By Miles Varn, MD

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 84 million people in the U.S. have prediabetes and the majority of them aren’t aware that their blood sugar levels are higher than they should be. Prediabetes means that your blood sugar levels are elevated but not yet high enough to be considered diabetes, but that doesn’t mean the condition doesn’t present a serious risk to your health. People with prediabetes are not only at risk of developing type 2 diabetes, they also face an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.

Most people with prediabetes don’t have any significant symptoms, so if they aren’t getting regular preventive care checkups that include blood sugar screening, they don’t know they have the condition. That’s why regular preventive care is essential, especially for people with factors that can increase their risk of developing prediabetes and diabetes, including:

  • Being overweight
  • Being 45 or older
  • Having a parent, brother, or sister with type 2 diabetes
  • Being physically active less than 3 times a week
  • Ever having gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy) or giving birth to a baby who weighed more than 9 pounds

 Steps to help you regain control of your blood sugar

There are a number of proactive steps you can take that may lower your risk of prediabetes progressing to type 2 diabetes.

  • Make healthy food choices. At each meal, aim for half your plate to include non-starchy vegetables like broccoli, spinach, lettuces, cauliflower, green beans, Brussels sprouts and carrots. A quarter of your plate should focus on lean protein, whether that’s poultry, meat, or plant protein like tofu or legumes. The last quarter of your plate should include whole grains like brown rice or whole grain pasta or starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes, squash, corn, and peas.
  • Lose weight. If you’re overweight, chose a healthy eating plan that you can stick to help you lose weight. Even losing 5% to 7% of your body weight (about 7 pounds if you weigh 150) can substantially reduce your risk of developing diabetes. One study found that losing that amount of weight decreased the risk of diabetes 58%.
  • Be more active. Regular exercise can not only help you lose weight, it also helps lower blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and blood glucose levels and helps you manage stress. You should aim for 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise five days a week. That can be brisk walking, swimming, riding a bike, or any other activity that elevates your heart rate.
  • Get enough sleep. Inadequate sleep can make it harder for your body to use insulin effectively, which in turn increases your diabetes risk. Practice good sleep habits and aim for at least seven hours of sleep a night.
  • Build a support system. Making the healthy lifestyle changes that can lower your risk of prediabetes becoming type 2 diabetes can be a challenge, so it’s helpful to have people to support and guide you. For some people, a family member or friend makes a good motivator and coach. Other people prefer to work with trained nutrition and exercise professionals, their health insurance’s lifestyle coach, or a health advisor.