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A prediabetes diagnosis is scary but reversible. This patient says she's going to do the hard work

raw vegetables with blood glucose meter, lancet and stethoscope
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A diet rich in fruits and vegetables is healthy for people with diabetes.

Earlier this year, Deja Davis had her annual physical. The 32-year-old had suddenly gained weight, prompting her doctor to order follow-up bloodwork.

“It was just to see if maybe there's an underlying issue that may be causing the weight gain,” Davis said.

The routine test came back with a serious diagnosis: prediabetes.

Prediabetes can lead to type 2 diabetes, a condition that can affect organs like the eyes and kidneys and lead to cardiovascular conditions or even amputations.

Still, Davis is optimistic.

“I know I don't exercise. I know I don't eat like I should,” Davis said. “I know there's things that I can change that will be able to alter this diagnosis.

According to recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly 80 million Americans are prediabetic, and more than 80% don’t know it. Health experts are urging the public to address this reversible disease before it gets worse.

“If we can do something to get ahead of it, to bend that curve, then that would really be the best bet to try to prevent the development of diabetes in the first place, and all its complications,” said Dr. Lisa Harris, who is the vice president for medical affairs at Excellus BlueCross BlueShield.

Harris said just losing 5% to 7% of your body weight and doing regular physical activity can reverse prediabetes, preventing serious, long-term illness.

“Pretty much every single organ is impacted by diabetes, and that's why it's so important to try to get ahead of this curve,” Harris said.

For Davis, this meant removing red meats and pork from her diet and drinking more water. She said those small changes have resulted in steady weight loss, and she feels more energetic.

She plans to adopt these lifestyle changes for good.

“Just because you know better doesn't always mean you do better, but I'm choosing to do better,” Davis said.

Racquel Stephen is a health and environment reporter. She holds a bachelor's degree in English literature from the University of Rochester and a master's degree in broadcasting and digital journalism from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University.