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Habits Secretly Increasing Your Prediabetes Risk, Say Physicians

Doing these things can lead to diabetes.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

According to the CDC, 37.3 million people in the U.S. have diabetes (11.3% of the population) and 96 million people aged 18 years or older have prediabetes (38.0% of the adult population).

"As recently as 50 years ago, type 2 diabetes was extremely rare. Now, around the world, the number of people with diabetes is increasing rapidly and is heading towards 643 million by 2030. This is a worldwide epidemic," says Adele Hite, PhD, MPH, RD. "In the past, type 2 diabetes was thought to be a progressive disease with no hope for reversal or remission. People were — and sometimes still are — taught to 'manage' type 2 diabetes, rather than to try to reverse the underlying process. But now people with type 2 diabetes can hope to regain their health." Here are five habits increasing your prediabetes risk. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Bad Sleep

woman sleeping at night with eye mask

Lack of sleep is strongly linked to both diabetes and prediabetes, doctors warn. "How does poor sleep contribute to obesity, diabetes, and metabolic issues? It's known that lack of sleep raises the stress hormone cortisol and increases glucose production, which raises your blood sugar," says Tony Hampton, MD. "Studies have shown that markers of increased insulin resistance appear after just one night of partial sleep deprivation. Symptoms of prediabetes can arise with as little as five days of sleep disturbances. Blood pressure also increases with sleep deprivation."


Visceral Fat and Prediabetes

shred belly fat

Excessive belly fat is particularly dangerous in raising the risk of prediabetes, studies show. "Being overweight is known to increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, but this study shows that not all fat is equal: where any excess fat is stored in the body has a big impact on disease risk," says ​​Professor Mark McCarthy, University of Oxford.



Woman sitting at the gym with pink pilates ball.

If you're overweight or obese, even minor weight loss can help lower the risk of getting prediabetes, experts say. "If you have prediabetes, losing a small amount of weight if you're overweight and getting regular physical activity can lower your risk for developing type 2 diabetes," the CDC advises. "A small amount of weight loss means around 5% to 7% of your body weight, just 10 to 14 pounds for a 200-pound person."


Lack of Exercise

Nutritionist inspecting a woman's waist using a measuring tape to prescribe a weight loss diet

Regular exercise is important for lowering the risk of prediabetes. "Even if you don't lose weight, exercise will make you stronger and healthier," says endocrinologist Douglas Zlock, MD, medical director of the diabetes center at John Muir Health. "Healthy habits can definitely postpone the onset of diabetes even if they don't prevent it."


Stress and Prediabetes

man experiencing high stress doing work, panic attack

There is evidence that stress can impact blood sugar control, helping raise the risk of prediabetes. "Most people with type 2 diabetes know the importance of exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, and getting plenty of rest," says Dr. Joshua J. Joseph, endocrinologist at The Ohio State Wexner Medical Center. "But stress relief is a crucial and often forgotten component of diabetes management. Whether it's a yoga class, taking a walk or reading a book, finding ways to lower your stress level is important to everyone's overall health, especially for those with type 2 diabetes."

Ferozan Mast
Ferozan Mast is a science, health and wellness writer with a passion for making science and research-backed information accessible to a general audience. Read more about Ferozan
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