One in three Americans is prediabetic, with higher than normal blood sugar levels. Even more alarmingly, 80% of people with prediabetes don’t know they have it.
But does that mean you’ll inevitably end up with type 2 diabetes?
Lifestyle modifications – including diet and exercise habits – can help slow or stop prediabetes from progressing to type 2 diabetes. Michael LeMay, MD, an endocrinologist with Hartford HealthCare Medical Group, shares three steps you can take.
1. Cut sugar and refined carbohydrates from your diet.
“It’s shown that simply reducing carbohydrates or sugars in your diet not only improves your blood glucose levels, but reduces your appetite and contributes to weight loss,” said Dr. LeMay. “That lowers the overall risk of metabolic disease.”
When eating carbohydrates, choose complex carbohydrates, which have less of an effect on blood sugar than refined carbohydrates. Dr. LeMay suggested trying:
- Wheat bread
- Sweet potatoes
2. Get physical more often.
“Exercising regularly improves the body’s sensitivity to the insulin it’s already producing, which leads to lower blood sugar levels,” Dr. LeMay explained. Exercise also improves blood pressure, cholesterol levels, bone density and cardiac function.
When deciding on an activity or exercise, Dr. LeMay suggested choosing one you can regularly participate in and, more importantly, enjoy. The more you enjoy it, the more likely you are to incorporate it into your routine for years to come.
3. Skip fad diets.
“Patients commonly ask me which diet is best for them,” Dr. LeMay said. “They should really examine what they consume and decide what small changes they can make and maintain long term.”
Fad diets often offer rapid weight loss initially but, ultimately, depend on changes many people cannot maintain, leading to failure.
Monitoring for type 2 diabetes
Even with lifestyle changes, watch for these tell-tale signs that your prediabetes may have progressed to type 2 diabetes:
- Increased thirst
- Frequent urination
- Increased hunger
- Blurred vision
- Numbness/tingling in the feet or hands
If you have any concerns, talk to your provider.