While there are no symptoms associated with prediabetes, there are still ways to monitor if you're headed towards developing this condition. The key is to know what risk factors give you a greater chance of developing prediabetes. Once you know what risk factors you have for developing prediabetes, you can work with a nutritionist or dietitian to help lower your risk. Here are some of the risk factors associated with prediabetes and some ways to help lower your risk.
Weight and waist size
Retaining excess weight can be detrimental to many aspects of overall health. Research shows that overweight and obesity as well as increased waist size is linked to an increased risk of developing prediabetes. The excess fat cells accumulated can lead to insulin resistance, preventing your body from utilizing glucose for energy properly. If insulin resistance worsens over time, this can lead to the development of Type 2 Diabetes. The risk criteria includes anyone with a BMI greater than 25, men with a waist greater than or equal to 40 inches, and women with a waist greater than or equal to 35 inches. The only way to improve this risk factor is through weight loss. The good news is, you don't even have to lose a ton of weight to see the benefit! Research done by the CDC shows that just 7% weight loss can show drastic improvements in insulin resistance. If you believe your weight or waist size may be contributing to your risk of developing prediabetes, we recommend working with a nutritionist or dietitian to develop a plan that works for you.
Dietary patterns can lead to increased risk of developing many chronic conditions. Dietary patterns relate to prediabetes because the foods we eat can directly impact our blood sugar response. Frequent intake of highly processed snacks, refined foods, and sugary drinks can not only cause excess weight gain but can also cause blood sugar to respond with drastic highs and lows. The amount of glucose (sugar) in our blood affects all of the other hormones in our body, which ties into insulin resistance associated with prediabetes. To read more about the foods that will contribute to your risk of developing prediabetes, check out our blog on foods to avoid for prediabetes.
The key to reducing your risk through your dietary patterns is to eat a varied diet high in nutrients. Choose lean proteins, foods high in fiber, and foods low on the Glycemic Index. There are also certain functional foods such as cinnamon, chia seeds, and turmeric that have been shown to help improve insulin resistance. To read more about the foods that will help lower your risk of developing prediabetes, check out our blog on foods to eat for prediabetes.
Physical activity will not only help you lose weight, but it also helps reduce your risk of developing prediabetes through better hormone regulation. Regular physical activity has been shown to naturally lower your blood sugar by increasing your cell's sensitivity to insulin. You might be wondering exactly how much physical activity is enough to see a positive impact. Well, the CDC recommends 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week. This averages out to about 30 minutes of physical activity 5 days per week.
The type of exercise you do is completely up to you! Just like anything else, it's important to ease your way into exercise. Start with something light and increase the intensity and time as you start to improve. For example, you may want to start with walking outside for 20 minutes. Once your body has adapted to your 20 minute walk, think about increasing the time to 30 minutes or adding some light hand weights to increase the intensity! The type and intensity of the exercise depends on the person, but don't be afraid to start small.
Unfortunately, while most other risk factors are modifiable, genetics are not. Certain people are more likely to develop prediabetes based on their family history or background. Individuals with a family history of Type 2 Diabetes or who are of African American, Hispanic, Native American, Pacific Islander, or Asian-American decent are at higher risk. It is especially important for people who are genetically predisposed to be conscious of the modifiable risk factors to keep prediabetes at bay.
There are other conditions that can put a person at increased risk of developing prediabetes. If you have had or currently have gestational diabetes, PCOS, or obstructive sleep apnea, your risk of developing prediabetes is greater than average. Although these conditions are not modifiable, what you can do is ensure you're aware of the other modifiable risk factors and are consistently checking in with your physician to check for prediabetes.
Want to learn more about your risk of developing prediabetes? Take the CDC's prediabetes risk test here.
Kaitlyn Willwerth is a Registered Dietitian at OnPoint Nutrition. Kaitlyn's work focuses on providing individualized health and lifestyle coaching and, most importantly, support. She is a Certified LEAP Therapist and has also completed the Monash University 'Low FODMAP Diet for IBS' online training course for health professionals.