5 Tips to Keep Prediabetes at Bay

Monday, August 20, 2012
By paying attention to your diet and staying active, you can prevent prediabetes from turning into full-blown diabetes.
Middle-aged ethnic couple exercising.

Before people develop type 2 diabetes, they almost always have “prediabetes” — blood glucose levels that are higher than normal but not yet high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes. Recent research has shown that some long-term damage to the body, especially the heart and circulatory system, may already be occurring during prediabetes. The good news is there are things you can do to prevent or delay the development of type 2 diabetes.

While diabetes and prediabetes occur in people of all ages and races, some groups have a higher risk for developing the disease than others. Diabetes is more common in individuals who are:

  • Overweight or obese, especially if you carry your extra weight in your belly (as opposed to in your hips, thighs and butt)
  • Inactive
  • Smokers
  • Family history of diabetes
  • History of diabetes during pregnancy, called “gestational diabetes” (if you are a woman)
  • Certain ethnic groups, including: African American, Latino, Native American and Asian American/Pacific Islander
  • Aged population

Do You Have Prediabetes?

There are three different tests your doctor can use to determine whether you have prediabetes. Each test measures blood sugar in different ways; your doctor can decide which is right for you:

  • The hemoglobin A1c test
  • The fasting plasma glucose test (FPG)
  • The oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT)

The blood glucose levels measured after these tests determine whether you have a normal metabolism. If the test shows your blood sugar is higher than normal but not high enough to be called diabetes, you will be diagnosed with pre-diabetes.

Prediabetes Doesn’t Have to Lead to Diabetes

If you have prediabetes, make lifestyle changes to reduce the chance that you will get full-blown diabetes. Here’s what the American Diabetes Association says you should do:

  • Lose weight — Losing 5 percent to 10 percent of your body weight can lower your risk a lot. If you weigh 200 pounds, that means you should lose 10 to 20 pounds. If you weigh 150 pounds, that means you should lose 7 to 15 pounds.
  • Eat right — Choose a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products, but low in meats, sweets and refined grains. Stay away from sweet drinks, like soda and juice.
  • Be active for 30 minutes a day — You don’t have to go to the gym or break a sweat to get a benefit. Walking, gardening and dancing are all activities that can help.
  • Quit smoking — If you smoke, ask your doctor or nurse for advice on how to quit. People are much more likely to succeed if they have help and get medicines to help them quit.
  • Take your medicines — If your doctor or nurse prescribed any medicines, take them every day, as directed. That goes for medicines to prevent diabetes, and for ones to lower blood pressure or cholesterol. People with pre-diabetes have a higher-than-average risk of heart attacks, strokes and other problems, so those medicines are important.

— Abigail Aiyepola, ND, LM, naturopathic physician, licensed midwife and resident at Bastyr Center for Natural Health, the teaching clinic of Bastyr University.

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