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 you’ve just had a diabetes blood test and your results show that you are (or almost) prediabetic, you may be able to reverse your pre-diabetes through healthy changes.   

In this blog, we discuss the following: 

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.  

Pre-diabetes is if you have higher blood glucose levels than normal, but 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 often 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?

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

Our Diabetes (HbA1c) Blood Test measures 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, our HbA1c test shows the average blood sugar for the past few months. This snapshot measurement can show whether you are diabetic or pre-diabetic and help you to track your blood sugar levels over time. Tracking your HbA1c over time can help you see whether any lifestyle changes you are making are helping to reverse your pre-diabetes.  

HbA1c levels and what they indicate

Knowing what your levels mean is helpful before you do a blood test and when you are tracking your HbA1c results over time [3].   

If you’ve just had a test, here’s what you should look out for: 

  • HbA1c of 48 mmol/mol or more indicates diabetes   
  • A result between 42-47.9 mmol/mol is considered to be pre-diabetic   
  • A result below 42 mmol/mol is considered normal (not pre-diabetic) 

With one of our tests, your results will be shown on your MyMedichecks account as in range (green), or out of the normal range (red). You’ll also be able to use our tracker function to check 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 keep 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)  
  • Having gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy) 

You can check your risk of progressing from pre-diabetes to type 2 diabetes with Diabetes UK’s 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?   

Five lifestyle changes that can help reverse pre-diabetes

1. Get a good quality night’s rest 

Poor sleep can be associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes [4]. Making sure you get a good quality night’s sleep is paramount to help reduce this risk. 

It’s not always about how long you sleep for either – you need to make sure that it’s uninterrupted and that you are hitting all sleep stages.  

You can read more about how to get a better night’s sleep in our blog: sleep – the best medicine?.

2. Eat a healthy 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 [5].    

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 some ways to move more without going to the gym, to help you meet those recommended exercise goals.   

4. Reach or maintain a healthy BMI (Body Mass Index) 

Your BMI (Body Mass Index) looks at your height, weight, age, sex, and ethnic background to show whether you are underweight, a healthy weight, overweight, or obese.  

Not keeping 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 [6]:   

  • Eat a healthy balanced diet    
  • Exercise regularly   

Alongside your BMI, it is important to pay attention to any weight you may have around the middle. Excess fat around your waist is known as visceral fat and is also an extra risk factor for developing diabetes.  

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.    

Try not to be put off by 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.   

Find out more about type 2 diabetes in our blog: 10 steps to reduce your risk of type 2 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. UK, D. and Risk, K., 2022. Diabetes risk factors. [online] Diabetes UK. Available at: <https://www.diabetes.org.uk/preventing-type-2-diabetes/diabetes-risk-factors> [Accessed 20 September 2022]. 
  5. 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].    
  6. nhs.uk. 2022. Obesity - Treatment. [online] Available at: <https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/obesity/treatment/> [Accessed 16 May 2022].   

 

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