If you've been diagnosed with prediabetes, it is important to understand what that means. Simply put, it means you have elevated blood sugar, but not high enough to qualify for a diabetes diagnosis yet. The CDC estimates that 1 out of 3 adults in the US have prediabetes. If this is not treated, about 30% develop diabetes within 5 years. The good news is prediabetes can be cured with lifestyle improvements (you read that right - no pills!).
Here are seven steps anyone with prediabetes should take now:
- Regular Exercise. This doesn't mean exercising two hours a day every day. It simply means become a more active person. Walk the dog twice a day, walk with friends, take a yoga class, etc. Aim for at least 150 minutes of exercise each week. Physical activity lowers blood glucose levels and reduces body fat.
- Lose a few pounds. Losing just a small amount of weight can make a huge difference. The Diabetes Prevention Trial found people who were prediabetes and lost five to seven percent of their body weight would lower their odds for a diabetes diagnosis by 58 percent. To put this in perspective, if you weigh 200 pounds, to reach five percent weight loss would mean losing 10 pounds, which would lower your risk.
- Visit your doctor regularly. Regular check-ups will help you keep focused on the goal of lowering your diabetes risk.
- Eat healthy. This doesn't have to be rocket science. There is no magic trick to eating better. However, the best evidence and standard of care for preventing and treating diabetes is a diet centered on fiber, omega 3s, and phytosterols (a plant-derived compound similar to cholesterol), while reducing foods rich in saturated fat, cholesterol, and trans fats. This means increasing your intake of fruit, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains, while reducing meat, dairy, eggs, and avoiding junk foods, processed foods, and sugary drinks. Hint: Try adding 2 tbsp of flaxseeds a day as a supplement. It has lots of fiber, omega 3s, and phytosterols. A study showed it reduced insulin resistance (the hallmark of prediabetes).
- Have a support system. Changing your lifestyle isn't easy. It is helpful to have a friend or family member who is committed to exercising and changing your diet with you. You can also join groups in your community that all have the same goal of achieving a healthier way of life. Consider enrolling in West Valley’s Prediabetes Prevention Program.
- Get enough sleep. Not getting enough sleep will make losing weight difficult because it increases stress hormones in your body that, in turn, cause the body to store fat.
- Get your mind right. A positive attitude will be the factor that tips the diabetes scale in your favor. Try your hardest every day to stick to your plan, but know that everyone is going to slip up. So don't dwell on it, and try better tomorrow!
This is the formula I use in my practice to treat prediabetes, and it has helped many patients get their life back. I have even used on myself! It brought down my A1c from 6.4 down to 5.3 without pills, helped me lose weight, improved my sleep, and increased my energy.
Make sure you speak with your doctor about the steps you are going to take to keep diabetes at bay. It will be good to have your doctor on board with your new lifestyle, and he/she will provide support and guidance.
Joe Lllenos, MD
Joe Lllenos, MD, is a primary care provider with a special interest in diabetes, wound care, and palliative medicine. To make an appointment with Dr. Llenos at his convenient Caldwell location, go to westvalleymedgroup.com.