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How can I treat my prediabetes?

Joan Salge Blake, MS, RD
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

Over 25 million American adults—about 8 percent of the population—have diabetes. Type 2 diabetes, which is the type both celebrity chef Paula Deen and American Idol judge Randy Jackson have, accounts for 90 to 95 percent of diabetes among adults. Even more serious, it is estimated that 35 percent of Americans adults have prediabetes. Those with prediabetes do not have blood glucose levels high enough to be classified as full-fledged diabetes but are on the road to developing it in the future.

According to the American Diabetes Association, studies show that those with prediabetes who lose weight and increase their physical activity can either prevent diabetes by having their blood glucose levels return to normal, or at least, delay the onset of Type 2 diabetes. The ADA also recommends meeting with a registered dietitian for dietary guidance in both managing and preventing diabetes.

Prediabetes is treatable. Lifestyle changes such as weight loss and regular exercise are most helpful in lowering blood glucose in people with prediabetes. In fact, studies show that these changes can delay—and perhaps prevent—the onset of diabetes and other problems.

Treatment consists of losing a modest amount of weight (5-10 percent of total body weight) through diet and moderate exercise, such as walking 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. Don't worry if you can't get to your ideal body weight. A loss of just 10 to 15 pounds can make a huge difference. If you have prediabetes, you are at a 50 percent increased risk for heart disease or stroke, so your doctor may wish to treat or counsel you about cardiovascular risk factors, such as tobacco use, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

Set three main goals if you're at risk for prediabetes or have been diagnosed with it: Eat regularly (no skipping or delaying meals), exercise for a total of 30 minutes daily and get an average of eight hours of sleep each night. When you short yourself on sleep, it leads to mindless eating or eating out of fatigue to perk yourself up.

Choose three behaviors and commit to doing them for at least four weeks. Try these specific ideas, too:

  • Drink a cup of water with meals and a cup between meals. This fills you up and helps you feel fuller faster.
  • Limit 100 percent real fruit juice to a half-cup, or four ounces. Switch to whole fruit for more fiber and better nutrition.
  • Forget about regular soda, imitation juice drinks, sports drinks and energy drinks.
  • Switch from full-fat to low-fat or nonfat dairy.
  • Increase whole grains in all foods. Switch from regular pasta to whole-grain. Have oatmeal for breakfast. Choose brown rice. All of these have complex carbohydrates, which cause a slower rise in blood sugar as well as other health benefits.
  • Increase fiber in your diet to help lower your blood sugar.
  • No foods other than fresh fruit should be on your kitchen counter or in view at all.
  • Keep cut-up fruits and vegetables up front and available on the main shelf of your refrigerator.
  • Write down what you eat and why. Were you hungry, angry or lonely? Know which triggers cause you to eat or overeat.

There are three main steps to treating prediabetes:

  •  Reverse your body's resistance to insulin.
  •  Lose weight to help your body be more sensitive to insulin.
  •  Exercise to maintain a healthy weight.

Studies show that the following two things can decrease your risk of type 2 diabetes:

  • Taking a brisk walk or doing another moderate intensity workout for just 30 minutes 5 days a week, and
  •  Losing 5 percent to 7 percent of your body weight and keeping off as many of those pounds as possible

Always talk to your doctor before starting a new fitness program.

Other ways to help treat prediabetes:

  • Eat a variety of foods that are low in fat.
  • Reduce the number of calories you eat per day.

Try adding these healthier choices to your diet:

  • The "P" fruits (peaches, prunes and pears)
  • Whole grain breads
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Brown rice
  • Oatmeal
  • Beans (black, lentil, garbanzo or kidney beans)

Get your plan in action to reap those awesome health benefits. Your health is your greatest wealth!

Many of the same medications used to treat diabetes can also be used for prediabetes; the most common one is called Metformin. It is perhaps better to look at prediabetes as a warning that lifestyle issues, particularly diet and exercise, are not in balance. The focus should initially be on improving these factors if possible before starting treatment with drugs.

Stacy Wiegman, PharmD
Pharmacy Specialist

You can treat prediabetes by eating right, exercising regularly and losing a modest amount of weight. Prediabetes, a condition in which your blood sugar is elevated but not high enough to indicate type 2 diabetes, greatly increases your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Fortunately, some lifestyle changes may prevent you from developing type 2 diabetes. If you are overweight, losing about 5 percent to 10 percent of your body weight (often just 10 to 15 pounds) can help bring your blood sugar levels back to normal. Regular exercise, such as walking 30 minutes a day, five days a week, can also be effective.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.