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Prediabetes: 7 Steps to Take Now

What to do to stop prediabetes from becoming diabetes.
By Winnie Yu
WebMD Feature

Getting diagnosed with prediabetes is a serious wake-up call, but it doesn't have to mean you will definitely get diabetes. There is still time to turn things around.

“It’s an opportunity to initiate lifestyle changes or treatments, and potentially retard progression to diabetes or even prevent diabetes,” says Gregg Gerety, MD, chief of endocrinology at St. Peter’s Hospital in Albany, N.Y.

Making these seven changes in your daily habits is a good way to start.

1. Move More

Becoming more active is one of the best things you can do to make diabetes less likely.

If it's been a while since you exercised, start by building more activity into your routine by taking the stairs or doing some stretching during TV commercials, says Patti Geil, MS, RD, author of What Do I Eat Now?

“Physical activity is an essential part of the treatment plan for prediabetes because it lowers blood glucose levels and decreases body fat,” Geil says.

Ideally, you should exercise at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week. Let your doctor know about your exercise plans and ask if you have any limitations.

2. Lower Your Weight

If you're overweight, you might not have to lose as much as you think to make a difference.

In one study, people who had prediabetes did 30 minutes a day of moderate exercise and lost 5% to 7% of their body weight (just 10-14 pounds in someone who weights 200 pounds) cut their chances of getting diabetes by 58%.

3. See Your Doctor More Often

See your doctor every three to six months, Gerety says. 

If you're doing well, you can get positive reinforcement from your doctor. If it's not going so well, your doctor can help you get back on track. 

"Patients like some tangible evidence of success or failure," Gerety says.

4. Eat Better

  • Load up on fruits and vegetables, especially the less-starchy kinds such as spinach, broccoli, carrots, and green beans. 
  • Add more high-fiber foods into your day. 
  • Choose whole-grain foods instead of processed grains -- for example, brown rice instead of white rice.

Also, swap out high-calorie foods. “Drink skim milk rather than whole milk, diet soda rather than regular soda,” Geil says. “Choose lower-fat versions of cheese, yogurt, and salad dressings.”

Instead of snacking on high-fat, high-calorie chips and desserts, choose fresh fruit, or whole wheat crackers with peanut butter or low-fat cheese, Geil says.  

5. Make Sleep a Priority

Not getting enough sleep  regularly makes losing weight harder, says Theresa Garnero, author of Your First Year With Diabetes.

A sleep shortfall also makes it harder for your body to use insulin effectively and may make type 2 diabetes more likely.

Set good sleep habits. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Relax before you turn out the lights. Don't watch TV or use your computer or smartphone when you're trying to fall asleep. Avoid caffeine after lunch if you have trouble sleeping.

Is This Normal? Get the Facts Fast!

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If the level is below 70 and you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.

People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.

Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.

However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.

Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.

One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

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