Pre-Diabetes: What It Is and What to Do About It

Pre-diabetes can be a confusing diagnosis because it means that you are at high risk to develop Type 2 diabetes, but you aren’t technically diabetic yet. For that reason, many people are unsure how to proceed after a pre-diabetes diagnosis.

First of all, being pre-diabetic does not mean that you need shots of insulin – yet. Even if you are officially diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in the future, many diabetics are able to manage their disease with diet, exercise, and oral medications. Your doctor may even potentially prescribe some blood glucose medications now, just to be on the safe side. But just because you might not need insulin shots in the future doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take steps now to prevent the potential progression into diabetes.

If you’re overweight and you’ve been diagnosed with pre-diabetes, losing weight is one of the most important things you can do to delay or prevent Type 2 diabetes.  Shedding even just 5 to 10% of your body weight can have a tremendous impact (for a 200-pound person, that’s anywhere from 10 to 20 pounds). Of course, once you lose weight, you’ll have to maintain it – re-gaining pounds lost is re-gaining risk for diabetes.

In order to lose weight, maintain weight loss, and turn the tide against a potential diagnosis of diabetes, you’ll need to reexamine your diet and exercise routine. Try to be active for 30-60 minutes, 5 days per week. This doesn’t mean jumping into an extreme regimen of daily 60-minute spin classes that leave you feeling like a wet rag. It’s fine to start small – park farther away when shopping, take the stairs instead of the elevator, go for a 10-minute walk on your lunch break, walk the dog twice a day. Many people enjoy the challenge and accountability of a pedometer that tracks their steps or a smart phone app or watch that tells them how many calories they’re burning. Find ways to fit activity into your daily routines. And as you gain energy and confidence, start looking into slightly more intense activities that interest you – dancing or Zumba, training for a 5k, or maybe even a spin class.

A common mistake is that when people start an exercise plan, they think they can eat whatever they want in unchecked quantities without gaining weight. But especially with a pre-diabetes diagnosis, you’ll need to keep an eye on how many calories you’re consuming in order to maintain or continue weight loss. It’s also important to monitor the sugar, carbs, fat, and cholesterol in your diet. Dietary changes can be especially impactful when made as a family – one, you’re creating a supportive environment with the people you’re closest to that will help to keep you accountable and on-track. Two, diabetes has well-documented genetic components, so if you’re at risk, your kids may be, too. With Type 2 diabetics being diagnosed younger and younger, now is the time to make sure that your kids learn healthy habits.

Finally, make sure that you’re getting enough sleep. It may sound strange, but studies suggest that consistently getting fewer than six hours of sleep per night may impact how your body responds to its own naturally produced insulin, making you insulin-resistant and more at risk for diabetes. Research has also suggested that people who don’t get enough sleep may be more inclined to consistently crave sweet and fatty foods throughout the day, making it even more difficult to stick with your healthy diet.

There’s no doubt about it – if you’ve been diagnosed with pre-diabetes, it will probably take some lifestyle changes and hard work to turn the tide. But by implementing these strategies, you will significantly reduce your risk of progressing into a Type 2 diabetes diagnosis. Once you’re diagnosed with diabetes, you’ll always have it. But at this point, it’s still in your control, so it’s up to you to make the changes.

+ Learn more about the tests used to diagnose pre-diabetes and diabetes.

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