Around 84 million Americans live with prediabetes, and only 10% know they have it according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Prediabetes is a condition in which your blood sugar levels are elevated but not yet high enough to be considered type 2 diabetes. Prediabetes is often symptom-less and can be detected through routine blood work performed by your doctor. However, it sometimes presents as increased thirst and urination, weight gain, and darkened skin around your neck, armpits, elbows, knees, and knuckles.
Prediabetes means your risk of developing type 2 diabetes is high unless you make some lifestyle changes. The good news is that with a healthy diet and exercise, you can reverse a prediabetes diagnosis and stave off the development of type 2.
Tests for Prediabetes
Your doctor may run a glycated hemoglobin or A1c test, a fasting plasma glucose (FPG) test, and/or an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) to see if you have prediabetes.
An A1c test gives an average of your blood sugar levels over the last three months. It’s taken with a simple blood draw. If your A1c level is between 5.7% to 6.4%, you have prediabetes.
With the FPG test, you can’t eat or drink the night before. Your doctor will draw a small blood sample to test your blood sugar level. If your level is between 100 and 125 mg/dl, your doctor will diagnose you with prediabetes. If your blood sugar level is above 126 mg/dl, you could have diabetes.
For the OGTT, you will also fast the night before. Your doctor will test your blood sugar. Then, you will drink a syrupy mixture. Your doctor will measure your blood sugar level again after two hours to see how you reacted to the drink. If your blood sugar level is between 140 and 199 mg/dl, you have impaired glucose tolerance, or prediabetes. If it’s higher than 200 mg/dl, you may have diabetes.
Risk Factors for Prediabetes
You might be at risk of a prediabetes diagnosis if you are overweight, carry excess weight around your abdomen, lack physical exercise, and have a family history of diabetes. Some ethnicities like African Americans, Mexican Americans, and American Indians run a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
If you think you might have prediabetes or type 2 diabetes, take this simple test and talk with your doctor to develop a health plan that can return you to good health.
Here are the two central steps to take to reverse prediabetes.
A healthy diet is crucial to managing and reversing a prediabetes diagnosis. A common misconception is that sugar causes diabetes, but the main culprit is usually carbohydrates. The Ketogenic Diet is a great option for those who fall in the diabetic or prediabetic range because it centers on severe restriction of carbohydrates and encourages consumption of healthy fats like avocado and extra virgin olive oil. Always consult with your doctor before beginning a restrictive diet.
Diet and exercise go hand-in-hand if you want to reverse a prediabetes diagnosis. Doctors recommend getting 150 minutes of exercise every week, or about 30 minutes 5 times per week. Exercising helps regulate blood sugar, so it’s recommended to exercise after meals. For example, a post-dinner walk is especially helpful to regulate blood sugar and digest food.
Exercises that build muscle are especially beneficial. The American Heart Association suggests that short bursts of high-intensity exercise improve overall health and fat-burning better than extended sessions of exercise. Their recent study also determined that “burst exercise patients experienced more than a two-fold greater improvement in HbA1c levels,” the glycated hemoglobin levels used to test for diabetes.
The Prediabetes Diet
Using the glycemic index (GI) can help you determine how a particular food will affect your blood sugar. Foods high on the GI will likely raise blood sugar quickly, while foods lower on the GI are less likely to cause blood sugar spikes. Knowing how food affects your blood sugar is crucial when you’re attempting to reverse a prediabetes diagnosis. It’s wise to keep a log of different foods and how they make you feel and affect your blood sugar.
Prediabetes diet tips
Sticking to a healthy diet is key to reversing a prediabetes diagnosis. Here are five healthy eating tips that are helpful for those with prediabetes.
- Avoid processed sugar. This includes sugary drinks, like soda or sports drinks. While sugar doesn’t necessarily directly cause diabetes, it does cause excess weight gain, which increases the likelihood of developing diabetes. This is especially true of extra weight around the midsection.
- Cut back on carbohydrates. Refined carbohydrates wreak havoc on your blood sugar, causing spikes and dangerous dips hours after you’ve eaten. Stick to whole grains like quinoa, barley, and whole wheat pasta to keep your blood sugar steady.
- Minimize portions. Portions are often smaller than we think they are. For example, a portion of lean meat is about the size of a deck of cards. If you find you’re still hungry after a meal, try to fill up on non-starchy vegetables that are low on the GI, like Brussels sprouts, carrots, and cauliflower.
- Choose your fats wisely. Fat isn’t the enemy you might think it is, but it is important to choose your fats wisely. Healthy fats include olive and vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, and avocado. However, even healthy fats should still be eaten in moderation.
- Fill up on high-fiber foods. Foods that are high in fiber take longer to digest and likely won’t cause spikes in blood sugar. This includes beans and legumes, fruits and vegetables with edible skins, and whole grains.
It’s also important to eat less fried foods, cut back on butter, focus on fish, chicken, and lean meats, and eat less meat overall. A dietitian can help you to plan meals that will get you back on the right track.
When it comes down to it, reversing a prediabetes diagnosis through diet and exercise is easier than dealing with type 2 diabetes your entire life. Adopting a healthy lifestyle through diet and exercise can help you reverse a prediabetes diagnosis and stay healthy longer.