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How to reverse pre-diabetes

Did you know it is possible to reverse pre-diabetes through lifestyle and diet changes? Understand everything you need to know about improving your HbA1c result.

Your risk of diabetes depends on several factors. For one, type 2 diabetes can be inherited (meaning it can run in the family) and linked to family history and genetics. It can also hugely be influenced by your diet, lifestyle, and even your environment.    

If your blood test results show that you are (or almost) pre-diabetic, it can be a little confusing to understand what that means and what you can do about it.  In this blog, you’ll learn more about pre-diabetes and how you can reverse it.   

What is pre-diabetes?  

Around seven million people in the UK have pre-diabetes – also known as Impaired Glucose Regulation (IGR) [1]. Being prediabetic increases someone’s chance of developing type 2 diabetes by up to 15 times.  So, if you have it, you certainly are not alone. 

Pre-diabetes is the term used to describe when someone has higher blood glucose levels than normal but is not high enough to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.  

Diabetes is when blood sugar levels are too high. When your sugar levels are too high, it can cause several unwanted symptoms and increase your risk of heart attacks and strokes.  

Symptoms of diabetes include [2]:  

  • Feeling very thirsty   
  • Fatigue  
  • Peeing more frequently than usual  
  • Blurry vision  

Diabetes is currently one of the biggest health issues in the UK. But the good news is that if you catch it early, you can reverse diabetes and effectively cure yourself through simple lifestyle measures alone.  

How is pre-diabetes diagnosed?  

Diabetes, or pre-diabetes, diagnosis usually starts with a blood test checking a biomarker known as HbA1c.    

With a Medichecks Diabetes (HbA1c) Blood Test, you can measure the amount of sugar attached to the haemoglobin in your red blood cells. As red blood cells live in the bloodstream for about three months, the HbA1c test shows the average blood sugar for the past few months. This snapshot measurement can indicate whether you are diabetic or pre-diabetic and help you to track your blood sugar levels over time.   

If you are trying to reduce your HbA1c levels, our Diabetes (HbA1c) Blood Test can help you track whether your lifestyle changes are effective.   

HbA1c levels and what they indicate  

Knowing what your levels mean is helpful before you do a blood test and when you're tracking results over time [3].  

  • HbA1c over 48 mmol/mol indicates diabetes  
  • A result between 42-47.9 mmol/mol is considered to be pre-diabetic  

If you are using MyMedichecks, your levels will show whether they are in range (green), out of the normal range (red), or borderline (orange). You’ll also be able to use our tracker function to monitor your levels over time on a simple graph.   

If your levels are below 42 mmol/mol, then you are likely to have successfully reversed your pre-diabetes. However, to maintain these levels, you will need to continue the lifestyle and diet changes that you have implemented to decrease the levels in the first place. 

What causes pre-diabetes?  

There are several causes of pre-diabetes, and quite often they are lifestyle-related. 

Lifestyle factors that put you at risk of pre-diabetes include:  

  • Being overweight or obese  
  • Not being active  
  • Having high blood pressure  
  • Having increased cholesterol levels  

However, there are also genetic factors that can increase your risk of diabetes.   

Genetic factors that put you at risk of pre-diabetes include:  

  • Ethnicity   
  • Age  
  • Being a male  
  • Having relatives with diabetes  
  • Having PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) or gestational diabetes  

You can check your risk of progressing from pre-diabetes into type 2 diabetes with Diabetes UK’s online calculator.  

Knowing your risk level may give you the motivation to start making lifestyle changes that can help lower your HbA1c levels and even reverse your pre-diabetes. But what lifestyle changes should you make?  

Six lifestyle changes that can help reverse pre-diabetes  

1. Set SMART goals

SMART goals mean that they are specific and achievable. Relating this to pre-diabetes, your lifestyle changes should be realistic, timely, and simple to stick to. Consistency is the big player here – your HbA1c levels aren’t going to change overnight.   

2. Mix up your diet

The NHS Eatwell guide gives examples of healthy eating and how to balance your meals to fuel your body the right way.   

Cutting down on certain foods, such as refined sugars and ultra-processed foods can also help you to reverse pre-diabetes.   

Refined sugars include:  

  • White bread, pasta, and rice  
  • Potatoes  
  • Sweets  
  • Cakes  
  • Fizzy drinks  

It is also recommended to reduce your alcohol intake and consider your portion sizes.  

3. Get moving

Staying active is a great way to reduce the risk of diabetes. The NHS recommends that adults should do some type of physical activity every day – though this doesn’t have to be intense [4].   

Daily physical activities can include:  

  • Walking  
  • Household chores, such as hoovering and cleaning  
  • Yoga 

Exercising once or twice a week can also reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke.   

Exercise doesn’t just have to take place in the gym either. If the gym isn’t for you, we’ve put together five ways to move more without going to the gym, to help you meet those recommended exercise goals.  

4. Maintain a healthy BMI (Body Mass Index)

Your BMI (short for Body Mass Index) looks at your height, weight, age, sex, and ethnic background to indicate whether you are underweight, a healthy weight, overweight, or obese. Not maintaining a healthy BMI can leave you at risk of several health conditions, such as: 

  • High blood pressure  
  • Cardiovascular disease  
  • Strokes  
  • Arthritis   
  • Diabetes   

To maintain a healthy BMI, it is recommended to [5]:  

  • Eat a healthy balanced diet   
  • Exercise regularly  

Your GP can advise you about losing weight safely, but there are also other useful services such as local weight loss groups (provided by your local authority and the NHS).   

5.  Quit smoking   

Smoking increases your risk of so many health conditions and reducing or quitting smoking is a health priority.   

If you want to quit but don’t know where to start, the NHS has plenty of services that are free, friendly, and can help boost your chances of quitting for good.   

You can read more about their stop smoking services on the NHS website.   

6. Medication

Lifestyle changes should be most people’s priority. However, if you struggle to achieve these due to physical or medical reasons then you should seek support from your GP or another professional.  

Don’t be put off with lifestyle changes, it’s unlikely you’ll see a difference instantly. However, with consistency, you’re likely to have more energy and see results in time. Plus, healthy lifestyle choices can help decrease your risk of diabetes and improve your mental and physical health.   

How can blood testing help reverse pre-diabetes?  

With our Diabetes (HbA1c) Blood Test, you can monitor your HbA1c levels and trend your improvements over time.   

Mymedichecks will provide a graph for you that will update every time you test your HbA1c with us. We recommend that you do not test more frequently than every three months, as you may not get an accurate reading. It is recommended to test every six months to a year instead.   

Seeing improvements in HbA1c levels can confirm that the lifestyle changes you are making are working to better your overall health and reduce your risk of developing diabetes.  


References  

  1. UK, D. and &#039;prediabetes&#039;, S., 2022. Seven million in UK have 'prediabetes'. [online] Diabetes UK. Available at: <https://www.diabetes.org.uk/about_us/news_landing_page/7m-in-uk-have-prediabetes#:~:text=An%20estimated%20seven%20million%20people,released%20today%20by%20Diabetes%20UK.> [Accessed 16 May 2022].   
  2. nhs.uk. 2022. Diabetes. [online] Available at: <https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/diabetes/> [Accessed 16 May 2022].   
  3. Diabetes. 2022. Glycosylated haemoglobin & diabetes. HbA1c facts, units, diagnosis, testing frequency, limitations, control & conversion. How blood glucose levels link to A1c.. [online] Available at: <https://www.diabetes.co.uk/what-is-hba1c.html> [Accessed 16 May 2022].  
  4. nhs.uk. 2022. Physical activity guidelines for adults aged 19 to 64. [online] Available at: <https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/exercise-guidelines/physical-activity-guidelines-for-adults-aged-19-to-64/> [Accessed 16 May 2022].   
  5. nhs.uk. 2022. Obesity - Treatment. [online] Available at: <https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/obesity/treatment/> [Accessed 16 May 2022].