Elderly couple at home eating healthy to prevent diabetes

Is Pre-diabetes Reversible?

Madam Goh Soo Eng was first diagnosed with pre-diabetes in December 2014 at the age of 60. With a blood sugar level of 6.3 mmol/L at 0hr and 7.2 mmol at 2 hr, compared to a normal level of 5.3mmol/L at 0 hr and 7.2 mmol/L at 2 hr, she was shocked and worried. She was informed that pre-diabetes could put her at higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

Thankfully, her doctor reassured her that it was not too late to reverse her condition and recommended she join HPB's Diabetes Prevention Programme (DPP) to reduce the risk of developing diabetes.

The Secret to Reversing Pre-diabetes

Through the DPP, which is specifically tailored for pre-diabetic individuals. Pre-diabetic individuals are those who have blood glucose levels that are higher than normal but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes mellitus. Madam Goh learnt how to put in place lifestyle changes to prevent her from developing diabetes.

For instance, she realised that healthy eating does not mean food has to be boring! Instead of an energy-draining sugar-heavy diet, she now snacks on healthy —and delicious—nuts such as a handful of almonds. She has replaced white rice with brown rice, and white bread with wholemeal bread.

Prior to joining the DPP, Madam Goh led a fairly inactive lifestyle and often felt sluggish and lethargic throughout the day, which further discouraged her from exercising and being physically active. She was prompted by the programme to start exercising regularly, however, and now has a weekly exercise routine that involves low-impact cardio and muscle-strengthening exercises. In Oct 2016, after the DPP, Madam Goh found that she had reversed pre-diabetes and managed to get her blood sugar levels back to normal.

Motivating Her Loved Ones to Prevent Diabetes

Thanks to these healthy habits, Madam Goh has managed to keep her high blood sugar level under control and also successfully prevented type 2 diabetes. She also finds herself in much better spirits and has more energy now. In turn, she has started to actively encourage her loved ones to live healthily as well.

At first, her friends and family were adamant about sticking to white rice, but Madam Goh advised them to mix 20% of brown rice with 80% white rice, before gradually increasing the ratio. Now, her family has switched to wholegrain products and a diet rich in vegetables and fish, and light on oil, salt and sugar. In addition, Madam Goh regularly takes her 84-year-old mother for health screenings.

The healthy changes do not end there. When Madam Goh meets with friends for a quick catch-up over meals, she encourages them to opt for less sugar in their coffee and tea and to adopt other healthy eating habits such as replacing fried dishes with steamed ones. To show her friends that healthy eating need not mean food is less tasty, she often shares tried-and-tasted recipes.

Madam Goh is now a volunteer at Agape Village, a social service centre in Toa Payoh, where she not only gets to help those in need but also benefits from the regular physical activities organised there. Agape Village also provides healthy meals, as well as regular health screenings. Besides actively participating in the centre's activities, Madam Goh has also been encouraging her neighbours and friends to join her there.

FAQs about Pre-diabetes

#1 Will losing weight help reverse pre-diabetes?

Yes, studies have shown that weight loss helps those who have been diagnosed with pre-diabetes to reverse their condition.

#2 Can diabetes (like pre-diabetes) be reversed?

Diabetes cannot be cured. Making lifestyle changes after being diagnosed slows the progression of diabetes. People with diabetes who do not manage their condition increase their risk of stroke, heart attack and other complications. Leading a healthy lifestyle improves overall health, and can slow or even reverse the development of diabetes.

#3 How long does it take to reverse pre-diabetes?

It depends on each person’s condition and the extent of the lifestyle changes. For instance, the time it takes for someone who starts exercising five days a week will be different from someone who exercises one day a week.

#4 How do I know if I have pre-diabetes?

You can feel perfectly well until complications occur. An early diagnosis of pre-diabetes means you can take charge of your health and reverse your condition before it develops into diabetes.

To get your diagnosis, go to your doctor to take blood tests (also known as blood glucose tests). They measure the amount of sugar in your blood.

Alternatively, go for regular health screening. Under HPB’s Screen for Life programme, you only pay $0-$5 for your screening.

#5 What are the risk factors for pre-diabetes?

The risk factors for pre-diabetes and diabetes are the same. Family history of either, high blood pressure, inactive lifestyle, etc. are all risk factors.

If you are interested in joining the Diabetes Prevention Programme just like Madam Goh, please register here.

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