About 1 in 3 adult Americans have prediabetes. 1 in 3! Wrap your mind around that for a minute. And, some people have it and are completely unaware of it because often there are no overt symptoms. This is one reason why it’s a good idea to get lab work done annually to check your blood glucose and to check your cholesterol and triglycerides. This is especially true if you’re over 45 years old, are overweight or have a family history of diabetes.
Lab work which checks your fasting blood glucose level and/or Hemoglobin A1c level will determine if your blood sugar is well-controlled (normal) or if it’s in prediabetes or diabetes range. The fasting blood glucose test will show you what your blood sugar is at for that moment in time. The Hemoglobin A1c test will give you your average blood sugar for the past 3 months.
Based on your lab work, if you are diagnosed with prediabetes by your physician, consider it a wake-up call. Your health is starting to go rather haywire, but you still have a bit of time to reverse the situation and get your health back on track. Not a lot of time, mind you – don’t put off taking action for 6 months! Definitely get started with making changes as soon as possible.
The good news is, this is your opportunity to take charge and set things right in your body. Some people can do it effectively on their own, but most people would benefit from getting some help with making lifestyle changes – for example, by working with a Registered Dietitian like myself or a personal trainer or taking a class for stress management. Many of us need that extra help and that extra encouragement and push to make these changes stick for the long-term. We’re not islands and sometimes we all need to lean on others for support and guidance.
Top Tips for Reversing Prediabetes:
- Your diet:
- Reduce: sweet foods, sweet beverages (soda, juice) and refined or processed carbohydrates
- In place of sweets and simple carbs, eat vegetables, fruit and whole grains – these contain complex carbohydrates and are rich in fiber, phytonutrients and vitamins and minerals.
- Eat a variety of colorful, non-starchy vegetables
- Minimize starches in your diet (potatoes, white bread, white rice, white pasta/noodles, flour tortillas)
- Overall, eat a balance of protein, healthy fats and healthy, whole foods-based carbs
- Stay hydrated: 8-12 cups of water daily (unless your doctor has you on a fluid restriction)
- Minimize alcohol intake as much as possible. Limit alcohol to 1 drink maximum per day. Alcohol can be risky and even dangerous when you have blood sugar issues such as prediabetes or diabetes.
2. Physical activity: I almost put this at #1 because it’s so important! Exercise helps in a couple of different ways – when you exercise, your working muscles utilize some of the glucose in your body. Exercise is also helpful with reversing prediabetes because it helps you maintain or lose weight. Being overweight or obese is a risk factor for diabetes.
Ultimately, work up to doing moderate intensity cardio (aerobic) exercise 150-300 minutes per week plus strength exercises at least twice a week (weights/resistance exercises, yoga or pilates). Learn some gentle stretches you can do before exercise to warm up your muscles. If you’re not used to exercising, you might start with 10-15 minutes of cardio (walking, biking or swimming) and work up from there. Gentle yoga is a great way to get started with stretching and strength exercises. It also feels so good! *Be sure to double check with your physician before jumping into a new exercise routine.
3. Weight: As I mentioned above, being overweight is a risk factor for diabetes. If you’re normal weight, you can move on to the next tip! But if you’re overweight, the first thing to do is to stop gaining weight, to simply maintain your weight. Once you’ve gotten a handle on that, you can work on losing weight in a safe manner. No crash or fad diets please! Weight loss of around 1 pound per week is safe. When you lose weight too quickly, this actually reduces your valuable lean muscle mass and this is counterproductive. The more lean muscle mass you have, the more calories you burn at rest.
4. Sleep: Lack of sleep can also be a contributor to diabetes. It also affects mood and cravings, so it probably leads to less healthy choices in the other categories too! Aim to get 7-9 hours per night. Wind down for the hour before bedtime – dim lights, relaxing activities and keep your bedroom cool, dark and quiet.
5. Stress: Chronic stress can create inflammation in the body, increase cortisol levels and increase your risk of diabetes. Try to make stress management a habit every day. You can start with 5-10 minutes per day. Choose something that feels good to you. Meditation, guided imagery, gentle yoga, relaxing music, lovemaking, taking a stroll or talking with a friend – all of these are great ways to reduce stress…and enjoy life!
Go forth and improve your blood sugar control…and your health!