Diabetes UK estimates up to 11.5 million people in the UK are at a high risk of developing the condition. This statistic is backed up by research published last year in the online journal BMJ Open, which estimates a third of adults in the UK are at the stage known as pre-diabetes.
If you’re one of them, or think you might be, the main thing to know is that pre-diabetes can be reversed. In fact, it only takes simple lifestyle changes to cut your risk of going on to develop type 2 diabetes.
So what does the term mean?
An alarm bell for your health
Although it isn’t a medically recognised condition, pre-diabetes is a term that’s used when a person’s blood glucose levels are higher than normal, yet not high enough for the full diagnosis of type 2 diabetes. Being told you have pre-diabetes serves as a warning that you’re at increased risk of developing the condition. It has other health implications, too – for example, it raises risk of cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks and stroke.
Here’s what you can do…
If you’re diagnosed with pre-diabetes (sometimes called impaired fasting glucose or impaired glucose tolerance) but don’t have any signs of type 2 diabetes, you’re likely to be seen every one to three years by your doctor, depending on your blood sugar levels. Now’s the time to take steps to reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Take the Diabetes UK quiz
Diabetes UK is encouraging people to find out their level of risk of developing type 2 and whether they have pre-diabetes. There’s a quick ‘Know your risk’ quiz on Diabetes UK’s website (diabetes.org.uk/risk), or you can check at your pharmacy or GP surgery. If you do discover you’re at risk, it means you’ll be able to get support and regular check-ups from your doctor.
Measure your waist
The biggest risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes is being overweight. The latest figures show that 57% of women and 67% of men in the UK are overweight or obese, yet many people still have little or no idea of what’s classified as being overweight.
That’s why it’s important to know your waist measurement. Put a tape measure around your middle (about the level of your belly button) and check yours today. Women should maintain a waist measurement that’s no more than 80cm (31.5in). For men, it should be no more than 94cm (37in), and for South Asian men, no more than 88cm (35in).
Shift 5–10% of your body weight
If you’re at risk, you don’t need to lose a huge amount of weight to make a difference. By shifting just 5–10% of your body weight (that’s 5–10kg or 11–21lb if you’re 100kg or 15½st) you can reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes, as well as heart disease and stroke by lowering your blood cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar levels.
In fact, every kg of weight lost is associated with a 16% reduction in risk and it’s been shown that weight loss of at least 5–7% is effective for type 2 diabetes prevention.
Losing weight takes time
People often look for a magic solution to help them lose weight rapidly. You’ll probably read claims that cutting out whole food groups or only eating ‘superfoods’ will do the trick. But there’s simply no evidence that people who follow these trends keep their weight off, nor that there’s any link to the prevention of type 2 diabetes.
The best diet and exercise plan is one you enjoy (so it’s easier to stick to). There’s no need to ban any foods – it’s the total number of calories consumed that matters. This is basically the Healthy Food Guide ethos, which is why our recipes are designed to be part of your long-term eating plan. Visit our diet planner to get started. And, remember, it’s important to increase the amount of exercise you do, too click here for ideas.
How to stay motivated
Some people find it helps to join a weight-loss support group, while others use an app. The key is to set realistic targets. If you hit a plateau, think about changing your exercise routine, setting a new goal or trying new foods. If you have a ‘bad’ day, make a decision to start again. Keep your eye on your goal and remember, losing weight and keeping it off will reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes and help to improve your overall health.
*Weight-loss results will vary and are down to your individual circumstances and the amount of weight you have to lose.