How To Reverse Prediabetes
More than 1 in 3 Americans have prediabetes. That’s a scary statistic, but what’s scarier is that more than 80% of those don’t know they have it. This is dangerous because prediabetes can lead not only to type 2 diabetes but also heart disease and stroke, among other serious diseases.
A simple blood test can reveal prediabetes, and with recognition, reversal of prediabetes is possible. To learn how to reverse prediabetes and prevent disease, keep reading.
What is prediabetes?
Prediabetes is a condition where blood sugar is higher than normal but not high enough to diagnose diabetes. This occurs when the body becomes desensitized to insulin, called insulin resistance.
The pancreas creates insulin, which signals to your cells to take up glucose (blood sugar) for energy. If you lose your sensitivity to insulin, your pancreas has to create more insulin to attempt to stimulate your cells to use glucose for energy. This creates a cycle where, ultimately, your pancreas can’t create enough insulin to stimulate your cells. So, the glucose levels in your bloodstream rise. Should this cycle continue, you will develop type 2 diabetes.
Unfortunately, there aren’t obvious signs of prediabetes. However, by ordering a simple blood sugar test—an A1c test—your doctor can tell if you have prediabetes.
You’re at a greater risk of prediabetes if you’re overweight, sedentary, or have a family member with type 2 diabetes. Women who have or have had gestational diabetes or polycystic ovary syndrome, or gave birth to a baby who weighed more than 9 pounds are also at higher risk. Additionally, some ethnicities are also correlated with a greater risk of developing prediabetes. These include African American, Hispanic/Latino American, American Indian, Pacific Islander, and Asian American.
How to reverse prediabetes naturally
Whether you already have prediabetes or you’re at risk of developing prediabetes, you can learn how to reverse prediabetes. Here are some natural ways to do so:
Getting regular exercise is key to physical and mental health. It can reduce your risk of developing a variety of diseases, diabetes included as it naturally causes your muscles to take up glucose from your bloodstream. Not getting enough exercise, on the other hand, reduces your cardiovascular fitness. And poor cardiovascular fitness correlates with an increased risk for obesity, type 2 diabetes, stroke, and other heart diseases.
In an effort to reverse prediabetes, you should aim for at least 3 days of exercise per week, totaling a minimum of 150 minutes, and a combination of strength and aerobic exercise. The combination of aerobic and resistance training is key to reversing prediabetes. However, even going for a walk after lunch can help reduce blood sugar levels.
2. Eat a Healthy Diet
Our blood sugar levels are highly impacted by the foods we eat, which is why consuming the right food for prediabetes is essential to reversing it.
A prediabetes diet should consist of a reduction in overall calories, but also a reduction in the foods most commonly correlated with spikes in blood sugar. This includes simple carbohydrates such as white bread, processed foods, and foods that contain added sugars.
Foods that can help stabilize blood sugar and reverse prediabetes include protein, fibrous foods such as beans, oats, and fruits, whole grains, and vegetables.
While eating a healthy diet can help stabilize blood sugar levels, it can also help you lose weight. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, losing 5% to 7% of your body weight can reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
3. Quit Smoking
Just like an exercise routine can be difficult to start and changes to your diet might not happen all at once, quitting smoking is easier said than done. However, if you can commit to quitting, it can have a dramatic positive impact on your health. As it relates to type 2 diabetes, in particular, smokers are 30 to 40 percent more likely to develop the disease than nonsmokers. In part, this may be because smoking can cause inflammation in the body as well as damage to its cells. Both of these can interfere with the body’s proper function.
By quitting, you can reduce your risk of developing diabetes and help reverse prediabetes. If you already have diabetes, you can also manage the disease more easily after quitting smoking.
4. Track your blood sugar
Prediabetes is a precursor to many diseases, namely, diabetes. Each year, 3.5% to 10% of people with prediabetes develop diabetes. This means their blood sugar levels increase from the prediabetes range of 5.7% to 6.4% to 6.5% or higher.
In order to keep your blood sugar levels in check, it may make sense to use a continuous glucose monitor—a wearable blood sugar tracking device. The benefit of a CGM is knowing what lifestyle choices you make, be it diet or exercise, cause your blood sugar to spike, and what ones help you maintain stable levels. Armed with this information, you can make lifestyle choices that help get your blood sugar back to a lower range.
5. Manage stress
When you’re stressed, your body releases cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones make it more difficult for insulin to function properly. The more often your body is in a stressful state, the greater your chance of developing insulin resistance.
Additionally, stress can lead to weight gain and trouble sleeping, which can also lead to insulin resistance or make it worse. If you’re struggling with stress, consider these natural ways to cope with stress and anxiety. With these tools, you can hopefully reduce insulin sensitivity due to stress and reverse prediabetes.
Medicine for prediabetes
By making the 5 lifestyle changes above, you can greatly reduce your chance of developing diabetes and hopefully reverse prediabetes. In some cases, though, your doctor may recommend medication such as metformin for prediabetes.
Metformin is a commonly prescribed drug for diabetes but it may help reverse prediabetes in younger patients. However, it isn’t as effective as losing weight and exercising.
While many medications may help reverse prediabetes and research is ongoing, there aren’t currently any FDA-approved treatments for prediabetes.
How long does it take to reverse prediabetes?
When you take a blood sugar test, it measures your average blood glucose levels for the past three months. If the results return and your levels are in the prediabetes range, you can make these changes to reverse prediabetes right now. The time it takes for them to work will vary from person to person. But if you exercise at least three times a week for a total of 150 minutes, eat a healthy diet that limits processed foods and prioritizes fiber, make efforts to manage stress and measure your blood sugar, and quit smoking, you should see a reduction in your blood sugar levels.
Depending on your initial blood sugar levels, it may take more or less time to lower them to a safe range that’s no longer considered prediabetic.
Questions about prediabetes
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