What risk factors for pre-diabetes are in my control?
Many risk factors can be controlled by the choices you make - these are called modifiable risk factors.
Getting to a healthy body weight
Having too much body fat for your height can increase the risk of diabetes. The ratio is often measured using the body mass index, or BMI. For most people, a body mass index calculator will provide a good target weight for your height. Talk to your healthcare professional if you believe that your target weight should be adjusted (for example, if you are a highly trained athlete or if you are underweight.)
Eating healthy foods in the right amounts
Diets that include high levels of sugar, starches and fats often overload the body with more glucose than it needs.
Diet is one of the most important modifiable risk factors for pre-diabetes. Aim to eat a diet that includes healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, instead of foods with a lot of added sugars. Sugary drinks, sodas, cakes, pies, and candy aren’t the only sources of added sugars. They can also be found in foods that you might consider to be healthy foods like yogurt, canned fruit, pasta sauces and cereals. Start reading food labels and making choices according to what your body needs.
Very few people choose their foods based on what will provide the best fuel for their health. Without intentional planning, it can be easy to opt for foods simply because they taste good or they are convenient. Spend time re-thinking your diet and exploring healthier food options.
Increasing your physical activity level
Exercise does not have to involve hours in a sweaty gym. Even a brisk 30-minute walk at least five days a week has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of diabetes and heart disease. As you build strength, endurance and flexibility with moderate exercise, you may find yourself willing to try more active sports too, like running, swimming, biking, yoga or tennis.
Reducing or managing your stress
Managing the stress in our lives is a very important part of healthy living, not only for diabetes but for heart disease and many other conditions. We can’t always control how others behave, but we can learn different ways to react and respond. New habits can help to change your bodily reaction to stress, which can in turn affect your health and risk for conditions like diabetes and heart disease.
There are a number of online resources that you can use to help you quit smoking. If you have had trouble quitting smoking in the past or if you have questions about smoking cessation, you can also speak with your healthcare provider about tools that can help you.
Heavy use of alcohol can cause inflammation in the pancreas and limit its ability to produce enough insulin. In addition, alcohol can cause liver damage, and adds more sugar and starch to your diet that must either be used or stored as fat.
Improving the quality of your sleep
Planning adequate sleep time is something most of us can do. Some, however, may have a sleep disorder like insomnia (trouble going to sleep or waking up too soon) or sleep apnea (problems breathing while asleep). Working with a healthcare professional to diagnose and treat sleep disorders can help you get a restful night of sleep and prevent cardiovascular disease.
Managing related conditions
High cholesterol and blood pressure are other risk factors often related to pre-diabetes and heart disease. The good news is that these conditions can improve by making the changes listed above, so taking steps towards a healthy lifestyle will benefit you even more.
This content was last reviewed August 2015.