Making some small changes can help you with managing your blood sugar — and could even delay progression of your diagnosis.
If you’ve been recently diagnosed with prediabetes, you probably have a million questions running through your mind. What — if anything — can I do to improve my health? Is prediabetes the same as diabetes? Will my life dramatically change?
But a prediabetes diagnosis shouldn’t be a cause for panic. Instead, consider it an opportunity to make some healthy lifestyle changes. While prediabetes is a health condition defined by blood sugar levels that are consistently above average, the risk for diabetes still increases.
Taking steps to change your diet and lifestyle, may help manage your diagnosis early on. A Journal of Internal Medicine study found it is possible to go back to a normal blood sugar level with effective weight management and blood pressure control.
Here are some easy ways in which you can take charge of your health after a prediabetes diagnosis.
1. Incorporate exercise into your normal routine
There’s no doubt that exercise is great for everyone, but for those with prediabetes, it’s a vital component of treatment. During physical activity, your body uses excess sugar in the bloodstream as energy for your cells and muscles. Go for a walk to shed off a few kilos – it is very effective and the best exercise recommended for preventing and managing diabetes.
According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), people with diabetes who exercised moderately for 30 minutes, three to four times a week, maintained healthy blood sugar levels for almost three hours longer each day than the non-exercising group. The effects of high blood sugar can include nausea, loss of breath, and the eventual development of type 2 diabetes.
Through this physical activity alone, this group lessened their exposure to these risks.
It’s important to note that if you’re starting an exercise routine for the first time, it’s best to build up gradually to the recommended 30 minutes a day. So, start small, and break it into increments if needed — three ten-minute walks can be far less daunting than one long one, after all. One of the most common causes of low blood glucose is too much physical activity. In fact, moderate to intense exercise may cause your blood glucose to drop for the next 24 hours following exercise.
2. Tweak your diet for better blood sugar management
A fasting blood sugar level between 100 and 125 mg/dl is considered prediabetes, while a reading below 100 mg/dl is considered healthy for most adults, according to ADA. Making changes to your diet and maintaining a healthy weight are the most effective ways to lower your blood sugar and keep it at a healthy level.
Small changes, like increasing your intake of fiber-rich fruits and non-starchy vegetables have been shown to effectively lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. A healthcare professional, such as a dietitian, can help you make a food plan that includes these key sources of nutrients. In the meantime, here are some healthy eating strategies you can start implementing today:
- Portion control. Choosing the correct portion sizes is key to managing your blood sugar. The ADA has created a simple tool called Create Your Plate to help those living with diabetes or prediabetes create well-balanced meals using the proper portions. On a 9-inch plate, you’ll want to fill 25% of it with protein, 25% with whole grains and starches, and the remaining 50% with non-starchy vegetables.
- Healthy snacking. When choosing snacks, opt for those that are low in sugar, sodium, and unhealthy fats to avoid blood sugar spikes and weight gain. Healthy snack options like protein-rich dairy products, fruits such as apples or blueberries, vegetables or a small serving of nuts are all good options in your daily meals. Additionally, one can even include a diabetes specific oral nutrition like Ensure Diabetes Care between meals which has a slow release energy system to help manage blood glucose levels and support weight management.
3. Cut back on indulgences and find your zen
Certain lifestyle factors — stress, drinking aerated beverages, and smoking, to list a few — can make it harder to maintain healthy blood sugar levels. And while reducing stress is often easier said than done, it’s important to make time for yourself and take steps to manage it. Mindful exercises like yoga and meditation are a great way to find your zen, while also getting in a healthy dose of fitness.
Including simple mental health breaks into your day, practicing breathing exercises and taking time out to pursue a passion or hobby will also help foster inner peace to deal with the chaos of everyday life and eliminate dependency on external factors.
A prediabetes diagnosis can be overwhelming, but it does not have to turn your world upside down. One should view it as an opportunity to turn the situation around and actively seek professional and personal support to cope with it.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.