Can Prediabetes be Reversed?

Apr
04

Can Prediabetes be Reversed?

Leaving your doctor’s office with a diagnosis of pre-diabetes and a couple of generic suggestions from your provider can spark so many negative feelings and emotions. Most times, people ask themselves how this could have even happened— they may have walked in to the doctors appointment thinking they are generally healthy but are now doomed. This diagnosis may bring up feelings such as guilt, shame, confusion, anxiety, and you might be wondering, can my pre-diabetes be reversed? On the bright side, your doctor was able to detect issues with your body’s blood sugar levels early, so the power is in your hands to reverse this condition.

This post was written by Kelsey Hulguin, dietetic intern, and reviewed by Edith Yang, RD, CSR, CLT, FAND, owner and principal dietitian at Healthy Mission Dietitian, Inc.

Hi, reader! My name is Kelsey Hulguin and I am a Lagniappe Wellness Dietetic Intern working under the guidance of Edith Yang, RD, CSR, CLT, FAND through Healthy Mission Dietitian Inc. Growing up in a massive Filipino family, I’ve heard countless concerns coming from older adults regarding their sudden pre-diabetes diagnoses during their annual check-ups. Most of them felt confused and fairly reluctant to change. Lucky for you, dietitians (and interns, too!) are more than eager to ease your mind! Read more about how pre-diabetes can be reversed in the article below.

elderly woman comforting elderly man with prediabetes

The Diagnosis of Pre-diabetes

Pre-diabetes is a health condition where an individual has higher-than-normal blood sugar levels. Pre-diabetes is typically diagnosed based on the results of your A1C test. Results of this blood test give healthcare providers an idea of how you have been caring for your blood sugar over the past 3 months (Hint: This is because our body’s red blood cells typically only live for 3 months!). People are diagnosed with pre-diabetes when they have an A1C level higher than the normal limits but lower than levels for Type 2 Diabetes. This means that in order to be diagnosed with pre-diabetes, your A1C levels are anywhere between 5.7-6.4%.

How is my body affected by high A1c levels?

Pre-diabetes occurs in the body due to insulin resistance. Insulin is a hormone in the body whose main job is to help sugar (AKA glucose) go from the blood into our cells in order for the body to use for energy. With insulin resistance, the body is unable to do that job, and therefore too much glucose will be floating around in the blood (as shown in your A1C levels). If untreated over a long period of time, insulin resistance can develop into type 2 diabetes.

How would I know if someone I know is at risk?

The risk factors to experiencing insulin resistance are the following: 

  • High body weight,
  • Age 45 or older,
  • A parent, brother, or sister with diabetes (family history of diabetes)
  • African American, Alaska Native, American Indian, Asian American, Hispanic/Latino, Native Hawaiian, or Pacific Islander American ethnicity,
  • Physical inactivity,
  • Health conditions such as high blood pressure and abnormal cholesterol levels,
  • A history of gestational diabetes,
  • A history of heart disease or stroke,
  • And polycystic ovary syndrome, also called PCOS

Diagnosis in the Minority Communities

As listed above, people considered minorities in America are automatically at a much higher risk of developing prediabetes. This is mostly due to lack of access to health care, socioeconomic status, cultural attitudes and behaviors. Still, the possibility of prediabetes being reversed still remains within this particular population. The health of minority groups are heavily influenced by their culture.

Cultural Significance

Diving deeper, we’ve seen that different cultures also have different experiences with food, social norms, and values. With that, it is important that prediabetes treatment is unique to individuals of various cultures. It’s been shown through research that a method called “culturally tailored diabetes education” or CTDE is more effective than the usual care of minority groups. 61% of participants receiving CTDE experienced better results of diabetes treatment than those undergoing standard diabetes treatment. 

When looking for a provider to help you with your pre-diabetes, be sure to look for someone who is knowledgeable about your culture and what foods are typically eaten. Here at Healthy Mission Dietitian, Inc, we have dietitians from different cultural backgrounds who are able to tailor your nutrition therapy to you and what you enjoy and are used to eating. Read more about our providers here.

assortment of ethnic ingredients spread along a table at a market

Can diabetes be reversed?

If you’re reading this, you or a loved one were diagnosed with pre-diabetes by a doctor. There’s a good chance that the same doctor left you with a one-page handout on advice to prevent the development of Type 2 Diabetes. I can only expect that you felt confused and didn’t exactly know where to start. Thankfully, registered dietitians (RD’s) work with patients in this exact situation. Though doctors know a ton about every part of the human body, they are not as well-trained in diabetes and nutrition as registered dietitians are. Everybody responds differently to treatment and dietitians are able to work with your situation to have your pre-diabetes reversed. 

Support Groups

Unfortunately, no one knows more about the emotions and struggles that follow your new diagnosis besides you. People doubt how they’ve brought themselves to this point with their health. Especially with hard times caused by our economy and COVID-19, it can be very easy to feel overwhelmed. Sometimes making lifestyle changes may seem like the last thing you want to focus your attention on. An easy first step is to reach out to others for support. Studies show that no matter one’s cultural background, the support of friends and family in diabetes management is important for pushing self care. In the end, it is important to seek out a dietitian’s or certified diabetes care and education specialist’s specialized care (CDCES). They can help guide you with the right education and resources you need to navigate through this new change.

What to Expect Moving Forward

In the coming months, Healthy Mission Dietitian, Inc. will release a self-paced diabetes course to help guide you on how to prevent disease progression or manage your current condition. This online course features five modules that guide you through the process between diagnosis and management. The knowledge gained by the end of the course will give you the confidence needed to overcome the stress that comes with your diagnosis. Here, you can learn how to build the solid lifestyle changes that may lead to your pre-diabetes diagnosis being reversed.

an overview of the course designated to help reverse prediabetes

Summary

News that you weren’t expecting about your health is never an easy thing to take in. On the other hand, there are so many steps you can take to feel like you’re able to gain control of your life again. The diagnosis of pre-diabetes can be reversed with appropriate interventions and it is important to act fast to deter the development of type 2 diabetes. One of the best and most effective things to do is to reach out to a dietitian about individualized actions that you can begin taking to a healthier life. 

References

American Diabetes Association. 2. Classification and diagnosis of diabetes: Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes—2018. Diabetes Care. 2018;41(suppl 1):S13–S27.

American Diabetes Association. 6. Glycemic targets: Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes—2018. Diabetes Care. 2018;41(suppl 1):S55–S64.

Gillett MJ. International Expert Committee report on the role of the A1C assay in the diagnosis of diabetes. Diabetes Care. 2009;32(7):1327–1334.

Nam, S., Janson, S. L., Stotts, N. A., Chesla, C., & Kroon, L. (2012). Effect of culturally tailored diabetes education in ethnic minorities with type 2 diabetes. Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing, 27(6), 505–518. https://doi.org/10.1097/jcn.0b013e31822375a5 

Penttilä I, Penttilä K, Holm P, et al. Methods, units and quality requirements for the analysis of haemoglobin A1c in diabetes mellitus. World Journal of Methodology. 2016;6(2):133–142.

Vaccaro, Joan A.; Exebio, Joel C.; Zarini, Gustavo G.; and Huffman, Fatma G., “The Role of Family/Friend Social Support in Diabetes Self-Management for Minorities with Type 2 Diabetes” (2014). Department of Dietetics and Nutrition. 1. https://digitalcommons.fiu.edu/dietetics_nutrition_fac/1

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