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.
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 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 vegetables, especially the less-starchy kinds such as spinach and other leafy greens, broccoli, carrots, and green beans. Aim for at least three servings a day.
- Add more high-fiber foods into your day.
- Enjoy fruits in moderation - 1 to 3 servings per 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.
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.
6. Get Support.
Losing weight, eating a healthy diet, and exercising regularly is easier if you have people helping you out, holding you accountable, and cheering you on, says Ronald T. Ackermann, MD, MPH, an associate professor of medicine at Indiana University School of Medicine.
Consider joining a group where you can pursue a healthier lifestyle in the company of others with similar goals.
A certified diabetes educator may also help you learn about what you need to do to prevent your prediabetes from becoming diabetes. You can find one through the American Association of Diabetes Educators.
7. Choose and Commit
Having the right mind-set can help.
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.’”
Those changes will add up.