What is Prediabetes?

June 12, 2019

Prediabetes means you have blood glucose, or blood sugar, levels that are higher than normal but not high enough to be called diabetes. Glucose comes from the foods you eat. Too much glucose in your blood can damage your body over time. If you have prediabetes, you are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.
Most people with prediabetes don’t have any symptoms. Your doctor can use an A1C test or another blood test to find out if your blood glucose levels are higher than normal. If you are 45 years old or older, your doctor may recommend that you be tested for prediabetes, especially if you are overweight. Losing weight – at least 5 to 10 percent of your starting weight – can prevent or delay diabetes or even reverse prediabetes. That’s 10 to 20 pounds for someone who weighs 200 pounds. You can lose weight by cutting down on the amount of calories and fat you eat and being physically active at least 30 minutes a day. Being physically active makes your body’s insulin work better. Your doctor may also prescribe medicine to help control the amount of glucose in your blood.

Symptoms of Prediabetes:

Prediabetes usually doesn’t cause any symptoms. The only way to know you have it is if your blood sugar levels are tested.

Causes of Prediabetes:

Prediabetes happens when the insulin in your body doesn’t work as well as it should. Insulin helps the cells in your body use glucose from your blood. When the insulin doesn’t work properly, too much glucose builds up in your blood. Higher levels than normal can indicate prediabetes. If the levels get high enough, you develop type 2 diabetes. High glucose levels can damage your blood vessels and nerves. This increases your risk of heart disease, stroke, and other health problems.
You are at risk for prediabetes if any of the following are true:
• You are overweight or obese.
• You have a parent, brother, or sister who has diabetes.
• You had diabetes during pregnancy (called gestational diabetes) or had a baby who weighed more than 9 pounds at birth.
• You are African American, Native American, Latin American or Asian/Pacific Islander.
• You have high blood pressure (above 140/90 mm Hg).
• Your HDL cholesterol level (“good” cholesterol) is too low (less than 40 mg per dL for men or 50 mg per dL for women), or your triglyceride level is higher than 250 mg per dL.
• You are a woman who has polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).

Diagnosis of Prediabetes:

Your doctor can give you a blood test to check for prediabetes. He or she may want to test your “fasting blood sugar” first. Fasting blood sugar is your blood sugar level before you eat in the morning. The ranges for the results of a fasting blood sugar test are:

• Normal = between 70 and 99 mg per dL
• Prediabetes = between 100 and 125 mg per dL
• Diabetes = higher than 126 mg per dL.

If your fasting blood test shows that you have prediabetes, your doctor may want to do an A1C blood test. Or, your doctor may skip the fasting blood sugar test and go straight to the A1C blood test. This test provides information about your average blood sugar levels over the past 3 months. The results are reported as a percentage:

• Normal = below 5.7%
• Prediabetes = between 5.7% and 6.4%
• Diabetes = 6.5% or higher.

You should be tested for diabetes if you are age 45 or older. You should also be tested if you are younger than 45 and have any of the risk factors listed above.

Prevention of type 2 Diabetes:

Prediabetes and type 2 diabetes can be delayed and even prevented. Usually, this is done by losing weight if you are overweight, eating a healthy diet, and exercising regularly. The longer you have prediabetes or diabetes, the more health problems you may experience. So even just delaying the onset of the disease can help your health.

Steps to avoid prediabetes:

You have prediabetes, the best way to avoid developing type 2 diabetes is by making changes in your lifestyle.

• Lose weight. If you are overweight, losing just 7 percent of your starting weight can help delay or prevent diabetes. That means if you weigh 200 pounds, losing 14 pounds can make a difference. Weight loss also helps lower your blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

• Exercise regularly. Exercise is an important part of diabetes prevention. Your exercise routine should include 30 minutes of moderate physical activity at least 5 times a week. This could include brisk walking, riding a bike, or swimming. Ask your doctor what exercise level is safe for you.

• Follow a healthy diet. Eat foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean proteins such as fish or chicken, and low-fat dairy. Don’t eat a lot of processed, fried, or sugary foods. Eat smaller portions to reduce the number of calories you take in each day. Drink water instead of sweetened drinks.

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