1. Understand your diagnosis: What is Prediabetes?
Prediabetes refers to blood sugar levels that are higher than normal but not yet high enough to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes.
In Canada, prediabetes is diagnosed based on one of the following bloodwork results:
Hemoglobin A1C (HbA1C or A1C) of 6.0 - 6.4%
Fasting plasma glucose (FPG): 6.1 - 6.9 mmol/L
Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (OGTT):7.8 - 11.0 mmol/L
While prediabetes has no symptoms, it increases your risk for developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke. Think of prediabetes as your body’s “early alert system” that you may need to make some lifestyle changes to protect your health.
2. Know that you can take action to protect your health.
Making lifestyle changes can help you take action to protect your health. When working with clients living with prediabetes, there are two main goals we often focus on targeting:
Improve blood sugar management to delay or prevent type 2 diabetes from developing.
Make changes to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. heart disease and stroke (e.g. lifestyle changes to support healthy cholesterol and blood pressure).
3. Focus on balanced meals - use the balanced plate as guidance!
While not all meals are served on a plate, The Balanced Plate can be used as guidance for the components and proportions we are looking for at all meals!
The Balanced Plate contains half a plate of non-starchy vegetables (any vegetables other than potatoes, sweet potatoes and corn), a quarter plate of protein, and a quarter plate of grains or starches.
Often times you may already have all of these components on your plate, it may just be working on adjusting the proportions to each other - most of us may find where we are coming up short is the half a plate of non-starchy vegetables.
If some meals don’t contain a veggie choice, start with aiming to include a source of vegetables with every lunch and dinner. If it’s easier to include a fruit with breakfast instead of a vegetable, that’s okay!
If your vegetable choice is less than half of your plate at the start, work on increasing the real estate your vegetable choices take up.
Balanced meals provide the appropriate portions of carbohydrates versus fibre versus protein that help our bodies to better manage the after meal rises in blood sugar. They also align with recommendations for a heart healthy way of eating!
4. Work towards a goal of 150 minutes of physical activity per week
Exercise can help your body to increase insulin sensitivity (a.k.a. Be more efficient at managing blood sugar) for up to about 24 hours after. In addition, exercise in increments of as little as 10 minutes is associated with cardiovascular benefits!
Most clinical guidelines recommend aiming for a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity aerobic (cardio) exercise each week - ideally spread out over at least three days of the week. We want to take advantage of that boost in insulin sensitivity across multiple days. This can be any aerobic exercise you enjoy - brisk walking is a great way to accomplish this!
5. Take steps to manage stress
A diagnosis of prediabetes can be stressful in of itself. However, prediabetes does not exist in a bubble.
While doing our best to manage our health, we are also bombarded with the stresses of everyday life. Stress can work against us to raise blood sugar. This is because your body produces stress hormones (e.g. cortisol, adrenaline) that activates your “fight or flight response “ - part of which is to raise blood sugar to give you the energy your body needs to run from danger. These stress hormones also raise blood pressure - not so great for reducing risk of heart disease.
So that means we have to take steps to better manage our own daily stress. You may already know what activities or techniques help you to destress. For example, I know that personally, I find mindful breathing exercises to be very effective at times when I am high strung, and that getting some fresh air (whether that’s a walk, a hike, or spending time in the garden) helps me to destress.
If you don’t have a stress management go-to, consider trying out some of these ideas:
Relaxation techniques - yoga, meditation, deep breathing, mindfulness based techniques
Scheduling time for activities that bring you joy
Optional bonus: Consider working with a dietitian who specializes in diabetes and prediabetes.
If you are feeling overwhelmed or are looking for individualized guidance, consider working with a dietitian that specializes in diabetes and prediabetes.
How a diabetes dietitian can help:
Provide individualised recommendations that work with your personal goals, preferences and life demands
Provide you with the tools and information to understand how different factors impact your blood sugar and how you can take control of your health
Help you balance additional health concerns and provide practical suggestions to address your daily challenges