Prediabetes is a serious health condition in which an individual’s blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not high enough yet to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Approximately 84 million American adults – more than 1 out of 3 – have prediabetes. Of those with prediabetes, 90% don’t know they have it. Prediabetes puts you at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.
You can have prediabetes for years with no clear symptoms, so it often goes undetected until serious health problems such as type 2 diabetes show up. It’s important to talk to your doctor about getting your blood sugar tested if you have any of the risk factors for prediabetes, which include:
- Being overweight
- Being 45 years or older
- Having a parent, brother, or sister with type 2 diabetes
- Being physically active less than 3 days a week
- Having gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy) or giving birth to a baby who weighed more than 9 pounds
- Having polycystic ovary syndrome
- Race and ethnicity are also a factor: African Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, American Indians, Pacific Islanders, and some Asian Americans are at higher risk.
If you have prediabetes and are overweight, losing a small amount of weight and getting regular physical activity may help lower your risk for developing type 2 diabetes. A small amount of weight loss means around 5% to 7% of your body weight, just 10 to 14 pounds for a 200-pound person. Regular physical activity means spending at least 150 minutes a week of brisk walking or a similar activity. That’s just 30 minutes a day, five days a week.
What should I eat?
Nutrition is key to a healthy lifestyle when you have prediabetes. Along with other benefits, following a healthy meal plan and being active can help you keep your blood sugar (or blood glucose level) in your target range. What you choose to eat, how much you eat, and when you eat are all factors that can affect your blood sugar. A registered dietitian (RD) or certified diabetes educator (CDE) can help you create a meal plan that’s full of healthy-tasty options.The key is to eat a variety of healthy foods from all food groups, in the amounts your meal plan outlines. Some great food groups to include are:
- Vegetables: Nonstarchy includes broccoli, carrots, greens, peppers, and tomatoes. Starchy includes potatoes, squash, corn, and green peas.
- Fruits: Includes oranges, melon, berries, apples, bananas, and grapes.
- Grains: At least half of your grains for the day should be whole grains. Includes wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal, barley, and quinoa, bread, pasta, cereal, and tortillas.
- Protein: Includes lean meat (chicken or turkey without the skin), fish, eggs, nuts and peanuts, dried beans and certain peas (such as chickpeas and split peas), and meat substitutes, such as tofu.
- Dairy: nonfat or low fat milk or lactose-free milk (if you have lactose intolerance) yogurt, and cheese.
Use oils when cooking food instead of butter, cream, shortening, lard, or stick margarine. Oils with heart-healthy fats, mainly come from the following foods:
- Oils that are liquid at room temperature, such as canola and olive
- Nuts and seeds
- Heart-healthy fish such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel
There are also some foods that those with prediabetes should limit. Try to stay away from fried foods and other foods high in saturated fat and trans fat. Foods high in salt or sodium are also good to avoid. Cut back on sweets, such as baked goods, candy, and ice cream. It’s also wise to limit beverages with added sugars, such as juice, regular soda, and regular sports or energy drinks. Drink water instead of these and consider using a sugar substitute in your coffee or tea.
Your primary care provider will keep a close watch on your blood glucose levels, monitoring them to make sure that your prediabetes doesn’t become type 2 diabetes. You should discuss diet and exercise recommendations with your doctor. Be honest about your habits and work together with your doctor to better control your blood glucose levels.
Sources: www.cdc.gov/diabetes/basics/prediabetes.html and