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Can You Reverse Prediabetes?

Natalie Stein
October 18, 2018
Can You Reverse Prediabetes?

What Is Prediabetes and How Can You Reverse It?


Prediabetes, also known as borderline diabetes, is the stage before Diabetes. It is a condition in which your blood sugar is higher than normal, but not as high as it would be if you had diabetes.  If you have prediabetes, you may have no symptoms. However, you are at higher risk for developing diabetes.

With diabetes, you will need to manage it with steps such as taking your blood sugar multiple times a day and using medications, possibly including insulin injections, and other costly and dramatic lifestyle changes if you want to prevent complications and early death.

How Many People Have Prediabetes and is it Reversible?

Prediabetes is increasingly common. More than 1 out of 3 American adults have it, totaling about 84 million, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Of these, nearly 9 out of 10 do not know they have it, making them more vulnerable to diabetes since they are not working on reversing their prediabetes.

You can reverse prediabetes by making lifestyle changes that help you:

  • Lose extra weight
  • Increase your physical activity levels
  • Make dietary change to improve cholesterol levels and lower blood pressure

If you are overweight, losing even a small amount of weight can help you reverse your prediabetes. Research has found that for every kilogram (2.2 pounds) of extra body weight you lose, your risk for diabetes decreases by an impressive 16%. While losing weight is not easy, it may be more doable when you set smaller goals such as a few pounds at a time.

Ways To Reverse Prediabetes

Reversing Prediabetes With Diet

Small changes to your diet can help you lose weight and reverse prediabetes. Consider these strategies – which can also help you lower blood pressure, improve cholesterol, and lower triglycerides:

  • Eating more vegetables at meals and for snacks
  • Swapping fatty red meat for lean cuts, skinless poultry, fish, egg whites, and beans
  • Choosing water, decaffeinated black coffee, plain tea instead of soft drinks, energy drinks, and other sugar-sweetened beverages
  • Choosing whole grains instead of refined, fruit instead of sugar-sweetened dessert, and olive oil instead of butter

You can also consider how you prepare and eat your food. These habits can help you lose weight and reduce other risk factors for diabetes.

  • Baking, grilling, steaming, and roasting instead of frying
  • Serving yourself smaller portions of high-sugar, high-fat, and high-carbohydrate foods
  • Cooking for yourself instead of eating out

Reversing Prediabetes With Exercise

The CDC recommends at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity physical activity, or at least 30 minutes on most days of the week. You can also break up your 30 daily minutes into three 10-minute sessions.

Examples of moderate-intensity physical activity include:

  • Walking briskly
  • Water aerobics
  • Leisurely cycling
  • Playing doubles tennis
  • Roller skating
  • Gardening and mowing the lawn

Alternatively, you can do 75 minutes per week of vigorous-intensity physical activity, or hit your goals with a combination of moderate and vigorous exercises.

Examples of vigorous-intensity physical activity include:

  • Running
  • Bicycling uphill or fast
  • Swimming laps
  • Kickboxing
  • Circuit strength training
  • Playing soccer or singles tennis

Other Ways To Reverse Prediabetes

Prediabetes A1C Range


As you start to learn about prediabetes reversal, you may see a lot of references to “A1C” or the “A1C test”. The term is short for “HbA1C,” which refers to “glycated hemoglobin”. That is the percent of hemoglobin in your body that has been glycated – but here is a breakdown.

  • “Hemoglobin” is the type of protein that carries oxygen in your red blood cells. It delivers the oxygen to the cells in your body as your blood circulates.
  • “Glycated” means that a sugar, or glucose, molecule, is attached. The glycation (or glycosylation) process can occur when there is too much sugar in your blood – that is, when blood sugar levels are high.

Glycated hemoglobin, or A1C, is a measure of how high your blood sugar has been over the past two to three months.

  • A “normal” value is under 5.7%
  • A value of 5.7 to 6.4% is considered to be prediabetes
  • A higher value than that is indicative of diabetes

Prediabetes Test Online

The online prediabetes test is located on the CDC’s website, and it takes only a minute to complete. First, answer the 7 yes/no questions.

Scoring Your Online Prediabetes Test

Next, see how many points you got for each question. You get 0 points for a question if your answer was, “No.” If you answered, “Yes,” you get the following numbers of points.

Then, add up the points you received on each question to get a total score.

Online Prediabetes Test Results

If your score is 0 to 2, great! It means you probably do not have prediabetes right now. Think about what you can do now to keep your risk low in the future.

  • Make sure to eat plenty of healthy foods
  • Avoid sugary and fatty foods
  • Get regular physical activity if you do not already exercise

If your score is 3 to 8, your chance of having prediabetes right now are low, according to the CDC. What you can try to do is keep your risk low.

  • Try to keep your weight below the healthy cut-off, or lose excess weight if you are above that number
  • Work on eating a healthier diet with plenty of nutritious foods
    • vegetables
    • whole grains
    • plant-based proteins
  • Getting more exercise, as long as your healthcare provider approves.

If your score is 9 points or over, you have a high risk of having prediabetes now. The CDC recommends that you talk to your healthcare provider. You can get a test to see if you have prediabetes.

Test for Prediabetes

The options that you have when you test for prediabetes depend on your health care coverage.

  • Ask your primary health care provider how to get tested.
  • If you have individual or group insurance through your employer, you may have to pay a copay or hit your deductible.
  • If you do not have insurance, you may need to pay out of pocket, but a glucose test can be relatively inexpensive.
  • Medicaid may cover your test, and Medicare will cover it if your provider provides a reason why you need the test.

A test for prediabetes is easy and fast. It is a simple blood draw to get a fasting blood sugar test or to test your A1C levels. An oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) can take up to a few hours. You will need to stop eating the night before your test if it is a fasting test or OGTT. Your results can come within a day or a couple of weeks, depending on the lab and your healthcare provider.

Author
Natalie Stein

Exercise, Fitness & Nutrition Expert | Lark Health