When diagnosed with prediabetes, individuals may leave the doctor’s office with some questions about what exactly that means and what they need to do to improve their health, said Janette Wheat, Ph.D, of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.

Wheat is a Cooperative Extension Program specialist and associate professor of human development and family studies at UAPB, according to a news release.

Prediabetes is when one’s blood sugar (blood glucose) levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to be called diabetes.

“Having prediabetes – or borderline diabetes as it is often called – is serious because it raises your chance of developing type 2 diabetes,” she said. “About one in three Americans has prediabetes. But individuals can’t know for sure whether they have prediabetes unless they are tested.”

Wheat said many of the same factors that raise people’s chance of developing type 2 diabetes put them at risk for prediabetes. These factors include being 45 years of age or older, being overweight or obese, not being physically active, having high blood pressure and having a family history of diabetes.

“If you have prediabetes, you can take steps to lower your chance of developing type 2 diabetes,” she said. “Lose weight if you need to, become more physically active and follow a reduced-calorie eating plan. Changing your lifestyle one step at a time can greatly improve your future quality of life.”

Wheat said developing a sustainable game plan is key to preventing type 2 diabetes. To get started, she recommends individuals:

• Set a weight-loss goal. Overweight individuals should set a weight-loss goal. Losing 5 to 10 percent of their current weight is a good place to start. For a 200-pound person, a 10-percent goal would mean they should try to lose 20 pounds.

• Follow a healthy eating plan for weight loss. Research shows that individuals can prevent or delay type 2 diabetes by losing weight through a reduced-calorie eating plan. Eating smaller portions, choosing foods with less fat and drinking water instead of sweetened beverages are great ways to reduce calories, according to the release.

• Find ways to be active every day. Individuals can start slowly and add more activity until they get to at least 30 minutes of physical activity, five days a week. Taking a brisk walk five times a week is a good goal to aim for, according to the release.

• Track progress. Using a phone, a printed log, online tracker, app or other device to record weight, calorie intake and physical activity can help individuals keep track of their progress and reach goals.

• Talk with a healthcare team. Professionals can inform patients about steps they can take to prevent type 2 diabetes. They can also advise about other ways to help them reach their goals such as taking medication used to treat type 2 diabetes. Patients should always ask whether their health insurance covers services for weight loss or physical activity.

• Get support. It is not easy to make and stick to lifelong changes in diet and exercise. Asking family and friends for support can go a long way in making lasting changes. Individuals can also join a diabetes prevention program to meet other people who are making similar changes.

“Though a diagnosis of prediabetes can be a bit confusing and frightening, it’s also a good opportunity to turn things around,” Wheat said. “Take advantage of the warning sign and find ways to sustainably change your life for the better. Preventing type 2 diabetes will help ensure a much better quality of life.”

The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff offers all of its Extension and Research programs and services without discrimination.