What is prediabetes? Prediabetes occurs when your blood sugar level is higher than normal but not high enough for you to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
If you are one of the estimated 86 million Americans who have been diagnosed with prediabetes, you may be wondering: What is prediabetes, and what should I do if I have it? The condition occurs when your blood sugar level is higher than normal but not high enough for you to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. It also means that you're at a higher risk of developing heart disease. For many, it is an important reminder to take better care of their health.
What Is Prediabetes?
Most glucose (sugar) in the body comes from the foods we eat. After food is digested, it enters into the bloodstream and then a hormone, called insulin, moves this sugar into the body's cells so it can be used for energy. When you have prediabetes, this process does not work properly and sugar ends up building up in the bloodstream, causing "high blood sugar." High blood sugar occurs when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or our cells don't use it efficiently, or both. If your blood sugar levels get too high, your condition can develop into type 2 diabetes.
More than one in three American adults has prediabetes. Fortunately, with a few lifestyle modifications, you can reverse this condition and prevent or delay becoming one of the 29 million Americans with type 2 diabetes.
Who Is at Risk?
Type 2 diabetes is a lifelong condition for the vast majority of people diagnosed with it. Prediabetes, however, can be reversed, so it's important to understand the risk factors in order to help prevent it from progressing. Some risk factors can be managed with lifestyle changes, while others are beyond our control. Risk factors include:
- A family history of diabetes
- Being over age 45
- Being overweight
- Having high blood pressure or taking medication for high blood pressure
- Being of African American, Hispanic/Latino, American Indian, Asian American, or Pacific Islander descent
- Having gestational diabetes during pregnancy
- Having polycystic ovary syndrome
What Are the Symptoms?
Many people experience no symptoms. A blood test can confirm if your blood sugar levels are in the prediabetes range. In some cases, though, people with the condition may experience symptoms of type 2 diabetes. These symptoms include:
- Increased thirst
- Frequent urination
- Blurry vision
How Can I Avoid Getting Type 2 Diabetes?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 15 to 30 percent of people diagnosed with prediabetes will go on to develop type 2 diabetes within five years. The good news is that if you lose seven percent of your body weight and exercise moderately for 30 minutes a day, five days a week, you can cut your risk in half. Here's how you can help to reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes:
1. Get Moving
The American Diabetes Association recommends 30 minutes of moderate physical activity, like walking, biking, swimming, or dancing, five days a week. Exercise helps your body use insulin more efficiently and lowers your blood sugar levels.
2. Lose Weight
Research shows that, if you're overweight, losing seven percent of your body weight (or 15 pounds if you weigh 200 pounds) in conjunction with moderate exercise can reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by as much as 58 percent. In fact, losing just 10 to 15 pounds may make a difference.
3. Eat Healthily
A dietitian or nutritionist can help you create a healthy eating plan that's chock-full of blood sugar–balancing foods such as non-starchy vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, and low-fat dairy products.
4. Get Enough Sleep
Not getting enough sleep can make it harder to lose weight and use insulin efficiently. Practice good sleep habits like skipping caffeinated drinks in the afternoon, going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, and avoiding TV and other electronic devices before bed.
5. Take Your Medicine
If you're at high risk, your doctor might recommend metformin or other medications to help control blood sugar, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol.
By Joelle Klein
American Diabetes Association: All About Prediabetes
Joslin Diabetes Center: What is Pre-Diabetes
Mayo Clinic: Prediabetes
DoIhaveprediabetes.org: National Diabetes Prevention Program
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Diabetes Latest
American Diabetes Association: Diagnosing Diabetes and Learning About Prediabetes
Healthline: The Right Diet for Prediabetes
Endocrine Web: How to Prevent Prediabetes from Becoming Type 2 Diabetes