What to do if you have prediabetes

Take action with steps to improve your health ‘ we show you how

What to do if you have prediabetes

Source: Web exclusive, November 2011

Has your doctor told you that you have prediabetes? It may sound like a daunting diagnosis. But finding out you have prediabetes can be positive news, since it’s a chance to set things right with your health.

"This is a wake-up call, saying that you’re on the road to getting diabetes," says Dr. Stewart Harris, a family physician who specializes in diabetes and is the Canadian Diabetes Association chair in diabetes management at the University of Western Ontario’s Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry. "This is a great opportunity to change that path."

Prediabetes means that your blood glucose is higher than normal. And if it continues to rise unchecked, you’re very likely to develop Type 2 diabetes within the next few years.

But believe it or not, you’re one of the lucky ones. Unlike many other Canadians with prediabetes, a condition that usually has no symptoms, you’re actually aware that you have it. Now you can take seven steps to prevent it from turning into diabetes.

1. Lose a little weight ‘ and keep it off

Are you overweight? By shedding just five to 10 percent of your body weight, you can prevent or delay diabetes. But once you get to the weight you want, you’ve got to stay there. Keep up your strategies ‘ like consuming fewer calories and burning off more ‘ and give yourself rewards and reminders about why you want to hold on to your healthier weight.

2. Add more exercise

Try to be physically active for 30 to 60 minutes, five days a week. That doesn’t have to mean you’re sweating it out at the gym every day, and it doesn’t have to be an hour solid. A few minutes of biking, walking briskly or taking the stairs will all add up to make a difference.

3. Change your unhealthy habits as a family

Two reasons why it’s a good idea to involve the whole family in your lifestyle changes: First, it’s easier to stick with healthier foods and physical exercise if you’re all eating from the same menu and involved in similar activities. Second, Type 2 diabetes can have genetic links. "If you start changing the way you live your life as a family, the better off all will be," says Dr. Harris, adding: "Diabetes is occurring at a younger and younger age. You need to instil these healthy patterns now."

4. Get enough sleep

New research is finding that people who regularly get less than six hours of sleep a night have increased insulin resistance. That means the blood glucose levels in their overtired bodies are not well controlled. Aim for more than six hours of shut-eye.

5. Treat your blood pressure and cholesterol more seriously

After you’ve been diagnosed with prediabetes, it’s more important than ever to keep your blood pressure and cholesterol under control. High blood cholesterol and hypertension can speed you up on the road to cardiovascular disease. Your doctor will likely want to monitor your levels, and may prescribe medication for controlling them. But lifestyle choices like healthy eating and exercise can also help keep these in a normal range.

6. Take blood glucose-lowering medication

Some drugs used to treat diabetes by lowering blood sugar may also help in prediabetes. "They’re very effective at preventing or delaying the development of diabetes," says Dr. Harris. Your doctor may suggest a medication if your lifestyle changes alone aren’t having a big enough impact on your blood glucose.

7. Test your blood sugar regularly

Now that you know your blood glucose levels are above normal, it’s a good idea to keep tabs on them. That way, you can tell right away if your choices are making a difference.

By considering all of these strategies, you’ll drastically reduce your risk of getting Type 2 diabetes. "Once you have a diagnosis of diabetes, you’ll always have a diagnosis of diabetes," Dr. Harris says. But right now? "It’s still in your control."

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