5 Lifestyle Changes You Can Make to Help Reverse Prediabetes


So what is prediabetes?

Prediabetes is a condition where your blood sugar is higher than normal, but not high enough for you to be considered diabetic. According to the American Diabetes Association, prediabetes is diagnosed when:

  • A Hemoglobin A1C reading between 5.7-6.4 percent
  • A fasting blood glucose between 100 -125 mg/dl
  • An oral glucose tolerance test 2 hour blood glucose reading between 140 mg/dl-199 mg/dl

A diagnosis of prediabetes usually indicates insulin resistance, which means your body doesn’t use insulin properly. Insulin regulates your body’s usage and storage of sugar and fat.

How Your Body Should Use Insulin

When your body uses insulin properly, it works like this:

  • Your glucose (blood sugar) rises after you eat.
  • Your pancreas releases insulin, which unlocks your cells.
  • Your unlocked cells are then able to use the glucose for energy.

What Happens If Your Body is Insulin Resistant

If your body is insulin resistant, here’s what happens:

  • Your glucose (blood sugar) rises after you eat.
  • Your pancreas releases insulin, but your cells resist the insulin and the glucose isn’t introduced to the cells efficiently.
  • The glucose stays in your blood (keeping your blood sugar levels high) because your cells aren’t burning the glucose for energy.

Over time, high blood sugar levels damage your cells and may lead to nerve damage, blood vessel and organ damage, cardiovascular disease and more.

“Prediabetes can be a scary diagnosis,” says Douglas Jones, MD, a physician at the Utah Valley Hospital Diabetes Management Clinic. “But being told you have prediabetes isn’t a death sentence. It can be a wake-up call to pay more attention to your body and make changes that will lead to a longer, healthier life.”

The best treatment for prediabetes? Lifestyle changes.

Lose 5-7 Percent of Your Body Weight

When you have a lot of weight to lose it’s daunting to think of the work it will take to lose all of it. Setting a goal of 5-7 percent (that’s around 7 lbs. for a 150 lb. person), makes losing weight seem more manageable. Weight loss will help reduce inflammation, which is a symptom of insulin resistance.

Move More

Exercise is a big part of reversing prediabetes. “Exercise is good for you no matter what, but if you’re prediabetic, it’s especially helpful to get moving. Your muscles use up some of your excess blood sugar, which helps you lose weight and use the insulin your body produces more effectively,” says Dr. Jones.

Eat More Vegetables

When planning your meal, start with vegetables and don’t stop till they take up half the room on your plate. Vegetables have lots of fibers to help manage the levels of glucose in your system. Plus, they’re high in vitamins and minerals that help your body work better. “Even if you don’t love vegetables you can find ways to sneak them in,” says Dr. Jones. “Add spinach to your morning smoothie or add extra veggies to your pasta dish. It all adds up.”

Know Your Carbs

All carbohydrates break down to glucose in your blood. So whether you’re eating carbs in the form of donuts, pasta or whole grain bread, it all breaks down to glucose for your cells to use. That doesn’t mean you should eat cake instead of quinoa, because not all carbs are created equal. There are three main types of carbohydrates:

  • Simple carbohydrates—fast acting carbohydrates that cause an immediate rise in blood sugar. These are found in foods like fruits, juices, maple syrups, milk, yogurt, and honey.
  • Refined carbohydrates—these are also fast-acting carbohydrates. These are plant based, processed foods that have had the whole grain removed during processing.
  • Complex carbohydrates—these carbs take longer for our body to break down and are absorbed into the system more slowly. This helps keep blood sugar stable. Examples of complex carbs include most vegetables, whole grains (unprocessed!) and beans.

Talk To Your Doctor About Managing Your Prediabetes

This may seem like a no-brainer, but make sure you work with your primary care physician to manage your symptoms. Dr. Jones says, “In some cases prediabetes can be managed through changes to nutrition and physical activity. Other people may benefit from a drug to help manage blood sugar levels. Your doctor can also help you learn how to take your own blood sugar so you can monitor yourself between visits.”

Whatever you do, don’t ignore prediabetes. Be proactive and take charge of your health. Make changes to your lifestyle and work with your doctor to help control your blood sugar. You’ll feel better, and you’ll help prevent diabetes.