If your blood sugar level was slightly elevated at your last check-up, your doctor may have said you have prediabetes.
Here’s the good news: It’s not a given that you’ll eventually get the disease. Making lifestyle changes now can prevent an eventual diagnosis of diabetes.
Type 2 Diabetes On The Rise
With diagnoses of type 2 diabetes surging in the United States over the past 10 years, I have this conversation in my office several times a week. The American Diabetes Association estimates 86 million Americans are prediabetic. Studies suggest up to 11% of them graduate to a diagnosis of diabetes each year.
Fortunately, we know how to delay or prevent diabetes from developing.
Strategies To Fight Prediabetes: Lose To Gain
Many studies have looked at the benefits of diet, exercise, and medication in preventing diabetes. While medications such as metformin can be used to treat prediabetes, they don’t fix the long term problem—they only seem to DELAY progression to diabetes for a few years.
The only way to truly prevent an eventual diagnosis of diabetes—in which your body is no longer using sugar properly—is to change your lifestyle. In fact, losing 5-10% of your body weight will drastically cut your risk of diabetes by double the amount of medication alone.
And don’t forget the power of regular exercise. One study showed a daily walking program lowered average blood sugars, even if the patients did not lose weight.
How To Prevent Prediabetes From Becoming Diabetes
- Change your diet in a way that leads to a sustainable lifestyle change. LG Health/Penn Medicine's Diabetes and Nutrition Center has an excellent class designed specifically for people with prediabetes to help them get started and set realistic goals. Since insurances typically do not pay for this service, it’s offered at a significantly reduced rate.
- Get 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week. Start slow, five or 10 minutes daily, and work your way up. Walking, swimming, bicycling are also good choices to get you moving.
- Talk to your doctor about whether a trial of a medication such as metformin is right for you.
- Follow up regularly with your doctor to monitor your progress and watch for other health problems related to prediabetes.
Find Out Your Risk
If you’re age 45 or older, you should be screened for prediabetes. If you’re younger, you should be screened if you:
- Have a family history of diabetes
- Have a history of diabetes during pregnancy
- Don’t exercise regularly
- Are overweight
- Have high cholesterol or high blood pressure
- Are African American or Hispanic descent
Screening for prediabetes involves a fasting blood test to see how your body is using sugar. If you’re diagnosed with prediabetes, your doctor should follow your blood sugar yearly to check that it hasn’t progressed to diabetes.