According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 79 million American adults have pre-diabetes. As you might guess, pre-diabetes can, and often does, develop into diabetes. Unfortunately, chances are that the cardiovascular damage that occurs with type 2 diabetes is already occurring with pre-diabetes.
The good news, however, is that a diagnosis of pre-diabetes does not sentence you to a diagnosis of diabetes; rather, with some lifestyle changes, diabetes can be prevented.
First and foremost, losing weight is the best way to prevent diabetes. The CDC’s National Diabetes Prevention Program indicates that people at risk for developing type 2 diabetes can delay or avoid the disease if they lose just 5 to 7 percent of their body weight.
Weight loss and physical activity can improve the body’s ability to use insulin and process glucose. One of the easiest forms of exercise is walking – start by taking a walk around the block at lunch time, choose to take the stairs where possible and eventually build up to at least 30 minutes a day most days of the week.
Enjoy a Healthy Diet
Consume foods that are low in fat, sugars, and sodium. Choose low or zero-calorie beverages over sweetened drinks. Replace white carbohydrates (i.e. white bread, white rice) with whole grains, brown rice, etc.
If you do choose unhealthy options, eat them in moderation. Furthermore, when you have pre-diabetes, the amount of food you eat is as important as the types of foods you're eating.
Make sure to adhere to recommended portion sizes to ensure you don’t overeat. For example, 3 oz. of lean protein (the size of the palm of your hand), 1 oz. of cheese (the size of your thumb), 1 cup of low-fat or nonfat dairy, 1 cup of fresh, non-starchy vegetables, ½ cup of starchy vegetables, 1 slice of whole-grain bread and 1/3 cup of brown rice or cooked whole-grain pasta.
Make Smart Substitutions When Cooking
Low-fat and low-calorie ingredients can make a big difference when it comes to your health. Some simple substitutions include: zero-calorie cooking spray for butter, milk for cream, low-fat or nonfat options for full-fat dairy products, unsweetened applesauce for oil or butter (only when baking) and sugar substitute for some of the sugar. It is also best to avoid frying foods; instead, try grilling, broiling or baking.
Monitor Your Cholesterol and Blood Pressure
People with pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes are at an increased risk for high blood pressure and high cholesterol, respectively.
If you have high cholesterol, take an active role in controlling it: Aim to exercise at least 30 minutes most days, eat a diet low in saturated fats and don’t smoke. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends maintaining your blood pressure below 130/80 mmHg to prevent the complications that often accompany diabetes.
If you smoke, stop; if you don’t smoke, don’t start.
Be vigilant of the symptoms of diabetes and speak with your medical provider about testing for pre-diabetes. The ADA recommends testing those over age 45 as well as people who are overweight and have one or more risk factors including high blood pressure, a family history of diabetes or a sedentary lifestyle. Remember, diabetes can be prevented with some lifestyle changes.