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Prediabetes

You have been diagnosed with prediabetes. This means that the level of sugar (glucose) in your blood is too high. If you have prediabetes, you are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is diagnosed when the level of glucose in the blood reaches a certain high level. With prediabetes, it hasn’t reached this point yet. But it's higher than normal. It is vital to make lifestyle changes to lower your blood sugar, improve your health, and prevent diabetes.

Why worry about prediabetes?

Prediabetes is a condition where the body’s cells have trouble using glucose in the blood for energy. As a result, too much glucose stays in the blood. This can affect how your heart and blood vessels work. Without changes in diet and lifestyle, the problem can get worse. Once you have type 2 diabetes, it's ongoing (chronic). It needs to be managed for the rest of your life. Diabetes can harm the body and your health by damaging organs, such as your eyes and kidneys. It makes you more likely to have heart disease. And it can damage nerves and blood vessels.

Who is a risk for prediabetes?

The exact cause of prediabetes is not clear. But certain risk factors make a person more likely to have it. These include:

  • A family history of type 2 diabetes

  • Being overweight

  • Being older than age 45

  • Have hypertension or high cholesterol 

  • Having had gestational diabetes

  • Not being physically active

  • Being African American, Asian American, Hispanic, Alaska Native, Native American, or Pacific Islander

Diagnosing prediabetes

Prediabetes may have no symptoms. Or you may have some of the symptoms of diabetes (see below). The diagnosis is made with a blood test. You may have 1 or more of these blood tests: 

  • Fasting glucose test. Blood is taken and tested after you have fasted (not eaten) for at least 8 hours. A normal test result is 99 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) or lower. Prediabetes is 100 mg/dL to 125 mg/dL. Diabetes is 126 mg/dL or higher.

  • Glucose tolerance test. Your blood sugar is measured before and after you drink a very sugary liquid. A normal test result is 139 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) or lower. Prediabetes is 140 mg/dL to 199 mg/dL. Diabetes is 200 mg/dL or higher.

  • Hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c). Your HbA1c is normal if it is below 5.7%. Prediabetes is 5.7% to 6.4%. Diabetes is 6.5% or higher. 

Treating prediabetes

The best way to treat prediabetes is to lose at least 5% to 7% of your current weight and be more physically active by getting at least 150 minutes a week of physical activity (at least 30 minutes daily.) When sitting for long periods of time, get up for short sessions of light activity every 30 minutes. These changes help the body’s cells use blood sugar better. Even a small amount of weight loss can help. Work with your healthcare provider to make a plan to eat well and be more active. Keep in mind that small changes can add up. Other changes in your lifestyle (or even taking certain medicines, such as metformin) may make you less likely to develop diabetes. Your provider can talk with you about these. Stopping smoking will decrease your risk of developing diabetes. But you may gain some weight if you are not careful.

Follow-up

If not treated, prediabetes can turn into diabetes. This is a serious health condition. Take steps to stop this from happening. Follow the treatment plan you have been given. You may have your blood glucose tested again in about 12 to 18 months.

Diabetes symptoms

Let your healthcare provider know if you have any of the following:

  • Always feel very tired

  • Feel very thirsty or hungry much of the time

  • Have to urinate often

  • Lose weight for no reason

  • Feel numbness or tingling in your fingers or toes

  • Have cuts or bruises that don’t seem to heal

  • Have blurry vision

Online Medical Reviewer: Marianne Fraser MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Raymond Kent Turley BSN MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Robert Hurd MD
Date Last Reviewed: 6/1/2019
© 2000-2019 The StayWell Company, LLC. 800 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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