Have you or a family member just received a prediabetes diagnosis? This is a serious wake-up call, but it doesn't have to mean diabetes will develop. You can take steps to turn things around.
It's an opportunity to start lifestyle changes or treatments, and slow or even prevent diabetes, says Gregg Gerety, MD, chief of endocrinology at St. Peter's Hospital in Albany, NY. These changes to familiar, daily habits are a good way to start.
Move more. Hands down, exercise is one of the best things you can do to make diabetes less likely. "Physical activity is an essential part of the treatment plan for prediabetes because it lowers blood glucose levels and decreases body fat," says Patti B. Geil, a registered dietitian and co-author of What Do I Eat Now? A Step-by-Step Guide to Eating Right With Type 2 Diabetes.
If you haven't exercised in a while, start by building more activity into your day. Take the stairs or do steps in place during TV commercials. Ideally, you should exercise at least 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. Let your doctor know about your exercise plans. and ask if you should consider any special factors or limitations.
Lose weight. If you're overweight, you might not have to lose as much as you think to make a difference. In one recent study, people who had prediabetes and lost 5% to 7% of their body weight (just 10 to 14 pounds for someone who weighs 200 pounds) trimmed their chances of developing diabetes more than half.
Check in more often. A good rule of thumb is to see your doctor every 3 to 6 months, Gerety says. The payoff is twofold: If you're doing well, you get positive reinforcement from your doctor. And if the condition is not going so well, your doctor can help you get on track.
Step up to better nutrition. Geil suggests several ways you can improve your diet. Load up on vegetables, especially the less starchy kinds such as spinach, broccoli, carrots, and green beans. Aim for at least three servings a day. Add more high-fiber foods to your meals. Enjoy fruit in moderation, about one to three servings per day. And choose whole grains over processed grains. For example, eat brown rice instead of white rice.
Also, swap 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.”
Occasional snacks are fine too, but trade the high-fat, high-calorie chips and desserts for fresh fruit, or whole wheat crackers with peanut butter or low-fat cheese, Geil says.
Make sleep a priority. Plenty of quality shut-eye is essential for many reasons, but not getting enough sleep on a regular basis plays havoc with your health -- and your weight. Too little sleep makes losing weight harder, says Theresa Garnero, a diabetes nurse educator and author of Your First Year With Diabetes: What to Do, Month by Month. A sleep shortfall also makes it harder for your body to use insulin effectively and may make diabetes more likely.
Create some good sleep habits and stick with them. 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 tech devices when you're trying to fall asleep.
The right mind-set and support can help you make a change. Here's how to get started.
Choose and commit. Accept that you won't do things perfectly every day, but pledge to do your best most of the time. "Make a conscious choice to be consistent with everyday activities that are in the best interest of your health," Garnero says. "Tell yourself, 'I'm going to give it my best. I'm going to make small changes over time.'"
Get support. Losing weight, eating healthy meals, and exercising regularly are easier if you have people who hold you accountable, says Ronald T. Ackermann, MD, MPH. Join a group to be in the company of others with similar goals.