Or maybe your doctor has determined that you have several risk factors for diabetes, such as a family history of the disease or obesity.
You may not have any obvious symptoms yet; therefore, you may not be very motivated to make lifestyle changes. But pre-diabetes is a warning sign that you’re at increased risk of developing diabetes and need to start controlling your blood glucose levels.
In fact, 15-30 percent of people with pre-diabetes will develop type 2 diabetes with five years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention1.
Making the following changes now can yield a variety of long-term health benefits and help you avoid the many complications that can accompany full-blown diabetes, such as nerve problems and heart disease. You may also be able to avoid taking diabetes medications such as insulin.
You may be referred to a dietitian or diabetes educator who can help develop a meal plan that fits your needs and lifestyle. For example, if you work long hours and frequently skip meals, your dietitian or diabetes educator can help you plan to pack diabetes-friendly meals and snacks, then help suggest habits that ensure you eat when you need to. High-fiber foods are good choices, as are most fruits, vegetables, and lean meats.
One of the most effective ways for pre-diabetics to get serious about their eating habits is to keep a food calendar. Your doctor may also want you to test your blood sugar with a blood glucose meter (or monitor) and test strips, then record the readings on that calendar. Some meters even come with a log book where you can enter these values. The best times to test are two hours after each meal and also when you first wake up in the morning (before eating breakfast). When you write down what you consume for meals and snacks, then record your blood glucose levels alongside them, you’ll be able to learn about the effect that various foods have on your blood sugar.
Maintaining a healthy weight
Being overweight can make you more likely to develop diabetes. The more fatty tissue your body has – especially in your abdomen – the more resistant your cells become to insulin.
You don’t have to become model-thin to reduce your diabetes risk. Losing even five to seven percent of your body weight – just 10 to 15 pounds if you weigh 200 pounds – can help significantly lower your chances of becoming diabetic.
Seeing your doctor regularly
Your doctor will want to check your blood glucose levels periodically to see if there’s any change. They may want to do an A1C test, which reflects your average blood glucose level over the past two to three months. This will help determine if your levels are improving, getting worse or staying the same. Your doctor can then adjust your treatment as needed. Reviewing your food diary and home blood test results with your doctor will be helpful as well.
You’ll also have additional tests to check your blood pressure and cholesterol, since you may be at increased risk for high blood pressure and heart disease.
Being physically active
Physical activity helps your body use more glucose, so naturally it helps lower your blood glucose levels. Exercise also allows your body to use less insulin when transporting the glucose. Being active will make it easier for you to maintain a healthy weight or lose weight if you need to – important goals if you’re pre-diabetic.
If you haven’t exercised regularly, start slow and work your way up. Anything that gets you moving – such as taking the stairs at work – can help. Walking can be an ideal way to start, no matter what your fitness level. Try to work toward 30 minutes of activity five days a week. As always, it’s a good idea to check with your doctor, too.
A diagnosis of pre-diabetes doesn’t mean that you’ll automatically develop diabetes and need to take diabetes medications. But it should serve as a warning sign that you need to make lifestyle changes now to avoid the possibility of bigger issues later.
Want to know more? Find helpful information and tips by visiting our “Lifestyle” section.
1Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/features/diabetesfactsheet/. Accessed January 28, 2015.