Learning that you have prediabetes is a wake-up call, says Stewart Harris, MD, a family physician who specializes in diabetes. “It’s a great opportunity to change that path.”
Prediabetes means that your blood glucose is higher than normal. And if it continues to rise unchecked, you’re very likely to develop type 2 diabetes within the next few years. Take these steps to reverse your prediabetes.
1. Lose a little weight (and keep it off)
Shedding just five to 10 percent of your body weight can help prevent or delay diabetes. But once you get to the weight you want, you’ve got to stay there. Keep up your strategies, like consuming fewer calories and burning off more, and give yourself rewards and reminders about why you want to hold on to your healthier weight.
2. Add more exercise
Try to be physically active for 30 to 60 minutes, five days a week. That doesn’t have to mean you’re sweating it out at the gym every day, and it doesn’t have to be an hour solid. A few minutes here and there of biking, walking briskly or taking the stairs will all add up to make a difference.
3. Change your unhealthy habits as a family
Two reasons it’s a good idea to involve the whole family in your lifestyle changes: First, it’s easier to stick with healthier foods and physical exercise if you’re all eating from the same menu and involved in similar activities. Second, type 2 diabetes can have genetic links. “If you start changing the way you live your life as a family, the better off all will be,” says Dr. Harris, adding: “Diabetes is occurring at a younger and younger age. You need to instil these healthy patterns now.”
4. Get enough sleep
People who regularly get less than six hours of sleep a night have increased insulin resistance. That means the blood glucose levels in their overtired bodies are not well controlled. Aim for seven to nine hours of shut-eye a night.
5. Take your blood pressure and cholesterol more seriously
After you’ve been diagnosed with prediabetes, it’s more important than ever to keep your blood pressure and cholesterol under control. High blood cholesterol and hypertension can speed you up on the road to cardiovascular disease. Your doctor will likely want to monitor your levels, and may prescribe medication for controlling them. But lifestyle choices like healthy eating and exercise can also help keep these in a normal range.
6. Take blood glucose-lowering medication
Some drugs used to treat diabetes by lowering blood sugar may also help in prediabetes. “They’re very effective at preventing or delaying the development of diabetes,” says Dr. Harris. Your doctor may suggest a medication if your lifestyle changes alone aren’t having a big enough impact on your blood glucose.
7. Test your blood sugar regularly
Now that you know your blood glucose levels are above normal, it’s a good idea to keep tabs on them. That way, you can tell right away if your choices are making a difference.
By considering all of these strategies, you’ll drastically reduce your risk of getting type 2 diabetes. “Once you have a diagnosis of diabetes, you’ll always have a diagnosis of diabetes,” Dr. Harris says. But right now? “It’s still in your control.”
Web exclusive November 2011 Best Health magazine