Why Treat Prediabetes? | Lark Health

Why treat prediabetes? Lark Health


Prediabetes is a condition with higher blood sugar (or blood glucose) levels than normal, but lower levels than in diabetes. It is the result of increasing insulin resistance and it can progress to type 2 diabetes if your insulin resistance continues to increase. 

So many people have prediabetes and diabetes that it may feel inevitable to you, especially if you have family members with diabetes. However, diabetes is not inevitable for most people if they treat prediabetes properly. Preventing diabetes is just one of many reasons to treat prediabetes. 

 

Temptation Not to Treat


Some misconceptions may tempt you not to treat prediabetes. These are some dangerous myths that could convince you not to treat prediabetes, and the truth about why treating prediabetes is important.

  • I don’t feel sick. Most people with prediabetes have no symptoms, but that does not mean you do not have prediabetes and insulin resistance. You may not have any symptoms until you have diabetes. By that time, the symptoms may be permanent or harder to reverse.

  • I don’t want to take medication. You are in luck, if you start now. Most people with prediabetes do not have to take blood sugar medications, while most people with diabetes do.

  • Diabetes runs in the family, so I’m going to get it. There is a genetic component to diabetes, but modifiable lifestyle factors matter, too. You can reduce insulin resistance with a healthy lifestyle for prediabetes.

  • I can’t afford treatment. You can afford it much better than the treatment that you would need if you got diabetes. The cost of prediabetes treatment can include paying for healthier food and workout clothes, while the average cost of diabetes care is thousands of dollars per year, including expenses such as medications and hospitalizations.

 

Treatment could reverse prediabetes or prevent or delay type 2 diabetes. 


One answer to why you should treat prediabetes is because you can! Prediabetes may be a chronic and progressive condition, but it is one that can be affected with treatment. Treatment can do one of the following.

  • Delay the onset of type 2 diabetes. The longer you delay the onset of diabetes, the fewer diabetes complications you are likely to develop in your lifetime.

  • Prevent type 2 diabetes. Preventing type 2 diabetes means you are unlikely to develop symptoms or complications, and you can avoid intensive daily management such as taking medications and measuring blood sugar.

  • Reverse prediabetes. Some people with prediabetes are able to get rid of it, completely. That is a goal worth pursuing!

 The research on prediabetes treatment is solid. It works. Simple lifestyle changes such as losing weight and increasing physical activity can lower diabetes risk by over 50% if you have prediabetes. This effective program is now a standardized program known as a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)-approved Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP). 

 

 You can keep a handle on your prediabetes.


 Part of prediabetes treatment is to monitor blood sugar levels so you know whether your plan is working or if it needs some tweaks. Your doctor is likely to order an A1C test every year or more often. This is a simple blood test that you can get at the lab or clinic where you usually get your blood drawn. 

Hemoglobin A1C, or just “A1C,” gives a measure of your blood sugar levels over the past 3 months. A value of 5.7 to 6.4% means that you have prediabetes. A higher value means you have diabetes, and a value below 5.7% is considered normal. 

If your A1C starts creeping up, you might be heading closer type 2 diabetes. If your A1C drops, you may be on your way to getting rid of prediabetes. Up, down, or stable, testing your A1C regularly is good motivation to keep up your prediabetes treatment.

What Is Prediabetes Treatment?

Usually, prediabetes treatment includes healthy lifestyle changes. The following are known to lower blood sugar or reduce type 2 diabetes.
  • Losing extra pound if you are overweight or obese (even a couple of pounds helps, and 5 to 7% of body weight is quite effective).
  • Increasing physical activity, with a goal of at least 150 minutes per week.
  • Eating more vegetables, beans, whole grains, healthy fats, and other nutritious foods.
  • Limiting fried food, processed meat, fast food, sugary foods and beverages, solid fats, and refined starches.
  • Getting enough sleep.
  • Getting your blood sugar or hemoglobin A1C levels tested regularly at your doctor’s office.
Most people with prediabetes do not take medications for it, but for some people, prediabetes treatment includes a blood sugar-lowering medication.
 

A little prediabetes treatment goes a long way.


Prediabetes treatment is not an all or nothing proposition. Every healthy change you make can help improve blood glucose control and lower your risk for diabetes. Knowing that even small improvements can lower your diabetes can motivate you to keep trying. Losing a couple of pounds, increasing physical activity by a few minutes a day, getting a little more sleep, and eating more vegetables are all examples of effective ways to lower diabetes risk.

What if your prediabetes treatment does not “cure” prediabetes? Be assured that living healthy is never a waste! If you do end up needing medications to help control blood sugar, your medications will be more effective because of your healthy efforts.

 

Prediabetes treatment is way easier than diabetes treatment.


An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. In this case, treating prediabetes so you can prevent or delay type 2 diabetes is far easier than caring for diabetes. Prediabetes treatment usually means making healthy lifestyle changes. Diabetes treatment is more intensive and usually includes healthy lifestyle changes along with:

  • One or more prescription medications, possibly including injectable insulin one or more times a day.

  • Testing your blood sugar as your doctor recommends, often when you wake up, after meals, before bed, and before and after exercising.

  • Checking your feet daily.

  • Seeing specialists, such as kidney doctors and foot doctors, to watch for signs of complications.

 

Treatment is available through the Diabetes Prevention Program.


Lack of treatment options is not a reason not to treat prediabetes. There are CDC-approved DPP providers nationwide, and many employer and other health plans offer a DPP to their covered participants. The DPP has a standard curriculum that takes place in weekly or monthly sessions over the course of a year. It is designed to help you lose weight and make physical activity part of your life by learning and practicing strategies to integrate health into your regular routine.

 

You can treat prediabetes on your terms.


Prediabetes treatment typically does not require intensive involvement by your healthcare provider. Instead, losing weight, getting active, and eating well are some of the most effective treatments for prediabetes. Those are the components that a DPP emphasizes.

Attending in-person DPP meetings can be burdensome, especially if they are at inconvenient times or in a place that is hard to get to. If that is the case, Lark DPP may be a good choice for you. It is an entirely digital DPP that you can access anytime through your smartphone. You can go through the DPP lessons and receive customized coaching on weight loss, healthy eating, exercise, and sleep. You can check your eligibility to enroll in Lark DPP.

 

Prediabetes treatment can improve your health in other ways.


Do diet and exercise sound like a general prescription for health? They are! If you use them to treat prediabetes, you can expect plenty of other benefits. Losing extra weight, eating well, and being physically active are linked to lower risk for:

 

You can feel energized from your prediabetes treatment.


Everyone can use a little more energy, and your prediabetes treatment may be your ticket! These are just a few examples of how treating prediabetes may help energize you.

  • You are lighter when you lose weight, so moving takes less effort.

  • You are fitter when you are more active, so daily life is easier.

  • Getting more sleep can give you more energy during the day.

  • Eating less fried and other heavy food can keep you from feeling sluggish.

  • Being more physically active can help you sleep better.

  • Eating more fiber and less sugar and starch can prevent blood sugar swings that often end in low blood sugar and lack of energy.

 

Treating prediabetes can give you other benefits.


When you treat prediabetes with healthy lifestyle changes, you are almost sure to discover all kinds of other benefits throughout the day. For example…

  • Feeling happier.

  • Less anxiety.

  • More confidence.

  • Better-fitting clothes.

  • Increased focus and alertness.

 

You have nothing to lose.


You have everything to gain and nothing to lose when you make healthy lifestyle changes to treat prediabetes. Unlike some medications, healthy living has almost no side effects or risks. It is inexpensive. It leaves room for flexibility (you can take a break from your plan to have chocolate cake or skip a workout, but you cannot skip a dose of medication). You can do it your way, choosing your favorite healthy foods and activities.

Just be sure, as you always should before making lifestyle changes, to check with your doctor first so you know that these changes are safe for you. When you are ready to get started, you might want to check your eligibility for Lark DPP. The app is a health coach that offers a customized prediabetes treatment program so you can be your best self.

 

Continue Reading about Prediabetes

Natalie Stein

Exercise, Fitness & Nutrition Expert | Assistant Professor of Public Health