November is National Diabetes Month. It’s a time for awareness that 1 in 3 Americans have prediabetes, a health condition where blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not high enough to qualify as Type 2 diabetes.
The good news is that in most prediabetes cases, Type 2 diabetes is not inevitable—it’s preventable. Having prediabetes doesn’t automatically mean you’ll develop Type 2 diabetes, but it does mean you’ll need to take action to keep your prediabetes from turning into something more serious.
Simple lifestyle changes like eating better, getting more physical activity and losing a small amount of weight can reverse your diagnosis. We know, we know—“eat right and exercise more” has been the mantra of doctors for years and is sometimes easier said than done, but this simple advice is truly the key to preventing serious health issues like Type 2 diabetes.
Here are five tips to reverse your prediabetes diagnosis and get on track to a healthier lifestyle.
1. Make healthy food choices.
Your food choices can improve your body weight, blood sugar levels, cholesterol, blood pressure and overall health.
- Ignore fad diets and instead focus on consuming wholesome foods. You can never go wrong with adding more veggies to your plate.
- Be mindful of serving sizes.
- Limit your intake of high fat foods and sweets.
- Drink more water. Aim for at least six to eight glasses of water a day.
- Keep track of what you eat and drink on a daily basis. Smartphone apps make it easier than ever to track calories and food intake.
2. Increase your physical activity.
Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate activity a day to reap benefits beyond reversing prediabetes—like more energy and better sleep. Exercise doesn’t necessarily mean hitting the gym (although there’s nothing wrong with that). You can get active doing things you enjoy, like going for a walk with a friend or taking your dog for a hike. Try a new activity like swimming or rock climbing to expand your skills and get your heart pumping. You can even join a fitness group for support and to stay motivated, such as the Priority Health Champion program.
3. Moderate weight loss.
You don’t have to lose major pounds to see improved health results. Losing five to seven percent of your current weight can help to lower your risk of diabetes. To lose weight:
- Combine healthy food choices with increased physical activity.
- Slow and steady wins the race. Set realistic expectations that contribute to a healthy lifestyle change, not a quick fix.
- Talk with your doctor to set a goal and determine how you’ll achieve it.
4. Talk to your doctor about your risk.
Let your doctor know if you have concerns about diabetes and are interested in diabetes prevention. Your doctor can advise if you should have diabetes testing done, which can help identify diabetes risks for those ages 45 and older. Your doctor may refer you to an educational class or diabetes prevention program so that you can take charge of your health and prevent disease progression.
5. Join a Diabetes Prevention Program.
Check with your health insurance provider to see if they offer a Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP). Classes are led by a certified lifestyle coach and can be taken online or in person. During this program, you’ll learn lifestyle changes, get motivation and support and engage in discussions. Topics covered include eating healthy while enjoying your food, incorporating exercise into your daily routine, managing stress and getting back on track after a setback.
According to research by the National Institutes of Health, people with prediabetes participate in a DPP can reduce their risk of developing the condition by up to 58 percent. Research has shown that the efficacy of this program also has lasting effects. Even after 10 years, people who completed a DPP course are less likely to develop Type 2 diabetes.
Remember: a prediabetes diagnosis is not a life sentence. With a few lifestyle changes you can reverse the trend and get your health back on track.