Receiving a prediabetes diagnosis can be scary, yet more than 1 in 3 adults in the United States have prediabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Having prediabetes may require some lifestyle changes to ward off the development of type 2 diabetes.
So, how do you reverse your prediabetes more effectively and efficiently? This article will outline the 10 most effective changes you can make to help reverse prediabetes fast.
What is prediabetes?
Prediabetes is a serious medical condition in which one’s blood sugar levels are more elevated than normal, but not yet high enough to be considered diabetes.
Someone with prediabetes still produces insulin, but their body is not using that insulin effectively, and they are experiencing insulin resistance.
Someone who has prediabetes typically has a fasting blood glucose number of between 100 mg/dL to 125 mg/dL. Anything under that signals no prediabetes and anything over that usually signals diabetes (any type).
The scariest part of prediabetes is that there are sometimes no signs or symptoms, but the higher blood sugar levels can still damage your internal organs, and eventually even develop into type 2 diabetes, which can bring about a whole host of complications.
It is vital to get checked regularly for prediabetes at your doctor’s office, especially if you’re at high risk for the condition.
Who is at high risk for prediabetes?
Anyone can develop prediabetes, but certain individuals are at higher risk of developing the condition. They include:
- People who are overweight or obese
- People who are 45 years or older
- Anyone who has immediate family with type 2 diabetes
- Anyone who previously had gestational diabetes and/or a baby over 9 pounds at birth
- People who are sedentary
- People who have polycystic ovary syndrome
- People who are African American, Hispanic/Latino American, Asian American, American Indian, or Pacific Islanders
Talk with your doctor about getting a regular blood glucose test or HbA1c test at your next appointment if you suspect you may have prediabetes.
You can also take the CDC’s risk test if you’re unsure about your level of risk, before talking with your doctor.
You can read our in-depth guide “How Often Should You Test For Prediabetes?” for more information about prediabetes testing.
What do I do to reverse prediabetes fast?
Reversing prediabetes is possible, with the right lifestyle changes and interventions. These lifestyle changes are simple, but not easy.
In fact, without intervention, about 70% of people with prediabetes eventually develop type 2 diabetes.
The following are the 10 most effective changes you can make to help you reverse your diabetes fast.
If you are overweight, losing weight is one of the most effective ways to reverse prediabetes.
Studies have shown that losing just between 5-7% of your body weight is enough to reverse prediabetes and prevent the development of type 2 diabetes, as well as improve cardiovascular health. This is only between 10-14 pounds for a 200-pound person.
There are plenty of ways to lose this small amount of weight, including modifying your diet through calorie and/or carbohydrate restriction, upping your physical activity level, or a combination of both.
Be physically active
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week, which is only about 30 minutes per day, 5 days a week, but the more, the better.
This can include activities such as brisk walking, bike riding, swimming, dancing, or even vacuuming! If you’re crunched for time, you can break that up into 3 ten minute sessions per day.
Even doing small things like pacing your house during conference calls, always taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or parking farther away from the store when you go shopping can increase the amount of exercise you’re getting per day.
Participate in the National Diabetes Prevention Program (NDPP)
The National Diabetes Prevention Program is nationally recognized by the CDC and is covered by most private health insurance plans (as well as many state Medicaid programs as well as Medicare!), and is offered nationwide in community settings.
The program is individualized to each person and helps them make a plan for healthier lifestyle changes that they can stick to.
The program has been shown to lower participants’ risk of developing type 2 diabetes by up to 58%, and up to 71% for participants over age 60! The program is one year long, and for the first 6 months, participants meet weekly for 1 hour, and then in the second six months, meeting monthly for 1 hour.
You can find out if there’s a program near you here, where they offer online, in-person, as well as hybrid models to meet everyone’s needs and wants.
Cut out added sugar
While there are many diet recommendations out there, one of the simplest ways to lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes and reversing prediabetes is by simply cutting out added sugar.
This does not mean cutting out fruit, vegetables, or dairy that have natural sugars. Instead, try limiting sugar-sweetened beverages, processed foods like ice cream, cakes, cookies, and other treats that have sugar specifically added to their ingredient list.
In fact, drinking sugar-sweetened beverages is associated with an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Most shockingly of all, people who drink 1-2 cans of regular soda per day have a 26% increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes! It’s best to replace all sugar-sweetened beverages with plain or sparkling water (or limited amounts of diet soda).
You’ll find that if you cut out added sugar (and even if you do nothing else to improve your diet), you will naturally eat more whole, unprocessed, lower-calorie foods that will inevitably improve your health and help reverse your prediabetes.
Learn to manage stress
One of the biggest factors that contribute to insulin resistance is cortisol and adrenaline, two hormones released in the body during times of increased stress!
If you can learn how to better manage your stress, your body’s natural “fight or flight” response will cool down (along with increased inflammation), vastly improving your health.
Some ways to better manage stress (instead of stress-eating or over-analyzing) are to start a yoga practice, try your hand at meditation, start journaling, or even just enjoy a bath every once in a while at the end of a long day.
Ask your doctor about an SGLT2 inhibitor
SGLT2 inhibitors are a class of prescription medicines that are FDA-approved for use with diet and exercise to lower blood sugar in adults with type 2 diabetes.
Medicines in the SGLT2 inhibitor class include canagliflozin, dapagliflozin, and empagliflozin.
However, studies are coming out that people who don’t have type 2 diabetes can also benefit from these drugs.
One study showed that patients who had prediabetes and started the SGLT2 inhibitor, dapagliflozin (Farxiga), were 32% less likely to develop type 2 diabetes than people taking a placebo!
These medications are used to help battle insulin resistance, and they can also work to reduce appetite as well.
When combined with an improved diet and increased exercise regimen, it might be the perfect remedy to help someone lose weight, reverse their prediabetes, and prevent the development of type 2 diabetes.
Talk with your doctor about possibly getting a prescription for an SGLT2 inhibitor. They can weigh the risks and benefits of this type of medication for you, your lifestyle, and your health goals.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 1 in 3 Americans don’t get enough sleep.
The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults between 18 and 60 sleep at least 7 hours every night.
Sleeping less than that is associated with an increased risk of developing chronic conditions such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and even stroke.
Not getting enough sleep can cause insulin resistance and insatiable hunger due to out-of-balance hormones, fatigue that makes exercising more difficult, and brain fog that makes carbohydrate counting and the self-control to eat healthy harder.
Getting the proper amount of sleep can better equip you to tackle the next day and make healthier choices, a ripple effect that will go a long way to reversing prediabetes and preventing the development of type 2 diabetes.
If you struggle to get enough quality sleep, read our guide “Diabetes and Sleep Problems: Causes and Treatment Options”.
The health benefits of coffee have a dubious history. Some people believe that drinking coffee only increases anxiety and decreases the quality and quantity of sleep one gets, whereas other studies show the benefits of the brew.
Well, coffee lovers rejoice! A study out of Harvard University officially found that people who increased the amount of coffee they had every day by more than a cup over a 4 year study period had an 11% lower risk for type 2 diabetes, than those who made no increases in their coffee consumption.
Additionally, they found that those who decreased their coffee intake by more than a cup per day increased their type 2 diabetes risk by 17%!
It’s important to note that changes in decaffeinated coffee consumption and caffeinated tea consumption were not associated with changes in risk for type 2 diabetes.
No one should have to manage their prediabetes alone. It will take the support of family and friends to truly shift your thinking and make the big lifestyle changes that are necessary to prevent type 2 diabetes.
If you have a family, eating healthier meals together will be crucial to your success. If you have an exercise buddy, you’ll be much more likely to stick to your routine and fitness goals.
If you seek out the support of a therapist or support group, you can get the help you may need when you start on this journey.
Remember, no one succeeds alone, and recruiting people to help you will not only inspire you but also help others become healthier as well.
Give yourself grace
Reversing prediabetes is a challenge, and you shouldn’t beat yourself up if you don’t succeed on the first try, or if your progress is taking longer than you’d like.
Make small changes, and over time, the benefits will add up.
Don’t blame yourself for your prediabetes diagnosis, and don’t fall off the bandwagon if you eat poorly at a celebration or don’t exercise for a few days while on vacation, just make the next bite you take be a healthier one, and seize the next opportunity for some physical activity.
Most importantly, take it one day at a time.
While receiving a prediabetes diagnosis can be hard, taking steps to manage your condition, and ultimately reverse it, can be simple, if not easy.
Incorporating changes such as increasing your sleep and amount that you exercise, improving your diet, learning to manage stress, talking with your doctor about adding or switching any medications you take, drinking more coffee, and seeking outside support (in terms of help from family, friends, a support group, a therapist, or even the National Diabetes Prevention Program), can go a long way reversing your prediabetes and never developing type 2 diabetes.
Give yourself grace, and over time, little changes made daily can make a big difference!