Prediabetes occurs when the body’s glucose levels are higher than the normal range, but not quite high enough to be diagnosed as full-blown type 2 diabetes. Prediabetes should be thought of as a warning, as it can lead to diabetes and its related health complications in the future. However, with some lifestyle changes, progression to diabetes can be delayed, prevented, and even reversed in some cases! In this article, we’ll discuss some factors that put you at risk of prediabetes and provide an overview of changes you can make to get your blood sugar back on track.
In order to understand this condition, you need to know what puts someone at risk of having prediabetes. Some factors include:
-Being 45 years or older
-Being overweight or obese
-Having high blood pressure, high triglycerides, or low HDL cholesterol
-Not being very physically active
-Having a close relative, such as a parent or sibling, with type 2 diabetes
-For females, having polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) or a history of gestational diabetes
-Being African American, Hispanic, American Indian, or Alaska Native
-Some Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders also have an increased risk
Want to learn more about your individual risk? Check out the handy Prediabetes Risk Test from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Preventing or delaying diabetes
Now, for the good news. With some changes to your lifestyle, activity levels, and food choices, you can stop prediabetes from developing into diabetes or at least slow down its progression. Some people are even able to get their blood sugar back down into the normal range! Let’s think about some of the best prevention strategies.
Regular physical activity is one of the main keys to diabetes prevention. For adults, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends to fit in at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio exercise, or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity cardio exercise, every week — but even more activity would provide further health benefits.
Additionally, strength building exercises of at least a moderate intensity that incorporate all of the major muscle groups should be included in your routine at least twice a week. Recommendations for older adults or for those with chronic health conditions can be found in the physical activity guidelines above, but for more information, people with chronic conditions should consult with a health care provider to learn what types and amounts of exercise are safe for them.
Cardio exercise, also known as aerobic exercise, works your heart muscle and increases the rate that it beats. It also works other large muscles in the body, like your arms and legs. Running, cycling, dancing, and walking are all great forms of cardio. Strength building exercises are more for building up muscular strength, and include things like pull ups, planks, weight lifting, working with resistance bands, or push ups.
All types of exercise will contribute towards your goals, not just intentional workouts. Certain types of gardening, yard work, or other chores around the house will all help to lower your risk of being diagnosed with prediabetes. It’s all about moving more and getting that heart rate up!
Physical activity, especially when combined with a reduced calorie intake, can also help with weight loss. For those who are overweight , losing just 5-7% of body weight can reduce their risk of developing diabetes.
Make nutritious food choices
When it comes to eating for diabetes prevention, work towards creating a balanced diet with healthy choices. It needs to include the right amount of whole grains and other high-fiber starches as well as lean proteins, fruits, veggies, low-fat or fat-free dairy or other calcium-containing foods, and heart-healthy fats.
Eating regular meals at regular times throughout the day can also help with keeping your blood sugar more consistent.
If you’re not sure where to start when it comes to healthy eating, or if you’d like some one-on-one support, consider setting up an appointment with a registered dietitian. They’ll work with you to come up with an individualized plan that fits your unique preferences and nutritional needs.
Tracking your physical activity, food choices, and weight can help you to progress and successfully meet your health goals. You can track the old fashioned way with a notebook or journal, or the more modern way of using an app on your smartphone. This can help you see your progress, troubleshoot setbacks, and keep yourself accountable!
Join a diabetes prevention program
The CDC has a diabetes prevention program that’s made specifically for people with prediabetes. The program helps people make lasting changes to their lifestyle in order to prevent or delay diabetes. Refer to the CDC’s National Diabetes Prevention Program website to learn more and find out how to sign up.
Getting support from people in your life is also very important. Get your friends and family on board to cheer you on as you make changes. Some may even become inspired to make changes in their own lives, too!
Consult your healthcare team
Regularly checking in with your healthcare team is crucial. These professionals can provide support and answer any questions you might have as you progress through your health journey. Some people might also be prescribed medication by their doctor to reduce the risk of developing diabetes.
Getting diagnosed with prediabetes can be scary, but it’s not all bad news. There are some small changes you can make to get your blood sugar back under control. Moving more, eating healthy and balanced meals, tracking your progress, finding support, and working with your healthcare team are all important strategies that can help you to stave off diabetes, get your blood sugar back in check, and feel your best.
When it comes to making changes, keep in mind that it’s okay to start small! Making tiny changes over time can eventually lead to those bigger transformations that you can keep up for good. What will you focus on first?
Liz is passionate about helping people improve their health and wellness through lifestyle and nutrition changes, and she is especially interested in diabetes prevention and management. Liz enjoys working with clients to find individualized strategies to improve their health in ways that last. Outside of work, you will likely find her rock climbing, biking, or spending time with her family.
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