Prediabetes occurs when the level of sugar (glucose) in your blood is too high, but not high enough to be called diabetes.
Losing extra weight and getting regular exercise CAN stop prediabetes from becoming full-blown diabetes.
Your body gets energy from the glucose in your blood. A hormone called insulin helps the cells in your body use glucose. If you have prediabetes, this process does not work as well. Glucose builds up in your bloodstream. If the levels get high enough, you can develop type 2 diabetes.
Having diabetes increases the risk for certain health problems. This is because high glucose levels in the blood can damage the blood vessels and nerves. This can lead to heart disease and stroke. If you have prediabetes, damage may already be occurring in your blood vessels.
Having prediabetes is a wake-up call to take action to improve your health.
How to Help Prevent Diabetes
Your health care provider will talk with you about your condition and your risks from prediabetes. To help you prevent diabetes, your provider will likely suggest certain lifestyle changes:
- Eat healthy foods. This includes whole grains, lean proteins, low-fat dairy, and plenty of fruits and vegetables. Watch portion sizes and avoid sweets and fried foods.
- Lose weight. Just a small weight loss can make a big difference in your health. For example, your provider may suggest that you lose about 7% of your body weight. So, if you weigh 200 pounds (90 kilograms), your goal would be to lose about 14 pounds (6.3 kilograms). Your provider may suggest a diet or you can join a program to help you lose weight.
- Get more exercise. Aim to get at least 30 to 60 minutes of moderate exercise at least 5 days a week. This can include brisk walking, riding your bike, or swimming. You can also break up exercise into smaller sessions throughout the day.
- Take medicines as directed. Depending on your other risk factors, your provider may prescribe medicines to lower cholesterol or blood pressure or to help prevent diabetes.
You cannot tell that you have prediabetes because it has no symptoms. The only way to know is through a blood test. Your provider will test your blood sugar if you are at risk for diabetes. The risk factors for prediabetes are the same as those for type 2 diabetes.
You should get tested for prediabetes if you are age 45 or older. If you are younger than 45, you should get tested if you are overweight or obese and have one or more of these risk factors:
- A previous diabetes test showing diabetes risk
- Family history of diabetes
- Inactive lifestyle and lack of regular exercise
- African American, Hispanic/Latin American, American Indian and Alaska Native, Asian American, or Pacific Islander ethnicity
- High blood pressure (140/90 mm Hg or higher)
- Low HDL (good) cholesterol and high triglycerides
- History of heart disease
- History of diabetes during pregnancy (gestational diabetes)
- History of delivering a baby weighing more than 9 pounds (4 kilograms)
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (imbalance of female sex hormones leading menstrual cycle changes and cysts in the ovaries)
If your blood test results show that you have prediabetes, your provider may suggest that you be retested once each year. If your results are normal, your provider may suggest getting retested every 3 years.
Impaired fasting glucose - prediabetes; Impaired glucose tolerance - prediabetes
American Diabetes Association. Diagnosing diabetes and learning about prediabetes. Diabetes.org Web site. Updated November 21, 2016. www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/diagnosis. Accessed January 20, 2017.
American Diabetes Association. Classification and diagnosis of diabetes. Diabetes Care. 2017;40(Suppl 1):S11-S24. PMID: 27979889 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27979889.
Mainous AG, Tanner RJ, Baker R. Prediabetes diagnosis and treatment in primary care. J Am Board Fam Med. 2016;29(2):283-285. PMID: 26957387 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26957387.
Polonsky KS, Burant CF. Type 2 diabetes mellitus. In: Melmed S, Polonsky KS, Larsen PR, Kronenberg HM, eds. Williams Textbook of Endocrinology. 13th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 31.
Review Date 12/10/2016
Updated by: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.