Nearly 100 million Americans — 38 percent of U.S. adults — have a disorder that magnifies their risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke and dementia. Although this disorder, prediabetes, can be easily detected with a simple test covered by almost all health plans, 84 percent of those with this condition don’t know they have it, because they haven’t had their blood sugar checked. That’s dangerous, because if prediabetes goes undetected and untreated, it can often progress to full-blown type 2 disease in four to seven years.

Also known as “insulin resistance” (IR), prediabetes can also damage the heart, brain and arteries. It’s the root cause of 70 percent of heart attacks and a major contributor to stroke. Recent studies also report that 80 percent of people with Alzheimer’s disease also have IR or diabetes. The good news, however, is that diabetes and IR are preventable — and in many cases, prediabetes is potentially reversible. Here are seven tips from the BaleDoneen Method to help you avoid diabetes.

  1. Get tested. In the time it takes to watch a movie you can get the best screening test for diabetes and prediabetes. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) advises the screening start at age 40 or older, or a younger age if advised by your medical provider due to obesity or family history. The ADA rates the 2-hour oral glucose tolerance test, in which you drink a sugary liquid after an overnight fast, as the “gold standard” in accuracy. Your blood sugar levels are measured at the 1- and 2-hour marks. Studies show that other screening tests, such as the A1c test, which doesn’t require fasting, are much less accurate.
  2. Aim for 30. To prevent or reverse prediabetes, the treatment that surpasses all others is aerobic exercise, such as running, brisk walking, and biking. Working out 30 minutes daily, five or more times a week, has been shown to prevent prediabetes 60 percent of the time. Even low-intensity exercise, such as walking slowly, substantially improves insulin sensitivity for the next 24 hours, the ADA reports. Always check with your provider before starting a new exercise regimen.
  3. Shed a few pounds. Large studies report that combining regular exercise with moderate weight loss (5 to 7 percent of your body weight) prevents prediabetes from progressing to type 2 disease 70 percent of the time. Research also indicates that weight loss plus boosting physical activity is far more effective than medication for keeping prediabetes from progressing to full-blown diabetes.
  4. Rethink your drink. Consuming just one or two sugar-sweetened beverages daily — such as energy drinks, fruit drinks, soda or coffee drinks — raises risk for a heart attack or dying from heart disease by 35 percent, diabetes risk by 26 percent, and stroke risk by 16 percent, according to a Harvard study. Quench your thirst with plain, sparkling or fruit-infused water.
  5. Have a dental checkup. About 50 percent of Americans ages 30 and older have periodontal disease (PD), a chronic oral infection that’s also known as “gum disease.” PD has been linked to higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes and many other chronic diseases of aging. Here’s more motivation to take great care of your teeth and gums: A landmark BaleDoneen study was the first to identify oral bacteria from PD as a contributing cause of heart disease. Use our easy four-step plan to optimize your oral health.
  6. Stress less. Having a moderate-to-high level of stress more than doubles risk for developing type 2 diabetes three years later, according to a study of more than 12,000 middle-aged women. The researchers theorize that by repeatedly activating the “fight-or-flight” response, chronic tension may increase levels of inflammatory compounds and impair glucose metabolism. One of the best ways to reduce stress is mindfulness, which has a wide range of health benefits.
  7. Sleep well. Many studies report that people who sleep seven to eight hours a night have the lowest risk for type 2 diabetes, while slumbering for five or fewer hours — or more than nine — boosts risk by up to 52 percent. Chronically skimping on slumber is linked to lower production of insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar, and increased risk for heart disease, obesity, depression and other chronic disorders. To get the restorative rest you need for optimal health, try our five natural ways to sleep better.