Prediabetes

How to prevent prediabetes from becoming type 2 diabetes

Written by Amy Hess-Fischl MS, RD, LDN, BC-ADM, CDE
Reviewed by Lisa M. Leontis RN, ANP-C

What Is Prediabetes?
Prediabetes is a “pre-diagnosis” of diabetes—you can think of it as a warning sign. It’s when your blood glucose level (blood sugar level) is higher than normal, but it’s not high enough to be considered diabetes.

Prediabetes is an indication that you could develop type 2 diabetes if you don’t make some lifestyle changes.
But here's the good news: it is possible to prevent prediabetes from developing into type 2 diabetes. Eating healthy food, losing weight and staying at a healthy weight, and being physically active can help you bring your blood glucose level back into the normal range.
 
 
Symptoms
 
Diabetes develops very gradually, so when you’re in the prediabetes stage—when your blood glucose level is higher than it should be—you may not have any symptoms at all. You may, however, notice that:
All of those are typical symptoms associated with diabetes, so if you’re in the early stages of diabetes, you may notice them.
 
 
Causes and Risk Factors
Prediabetes develops when your body begins to have trouble using the hormone insulin. Insulin is necessary to transport glucose—what your body uses for energy—into the cells via the bloodstream. In pre-diabetes, your body either doesn’t make enough insulin or it doesn’t use it well (that’s called insulin resistance).
 
If you don’t have enough insulin or if you’re insulin resistant, you can build up too much glucose in your blood, leading to a higher-than-normal blood glucose level and perhaps prediabetes.
 
Researchers aren’t sure what exactly causes the insulin process to go awry in some people. There are several risk factors, though, that make it more likely that you’ll develop pre-diabetes. These are the same risk factors related to the development of type 2 diabetes:
 
Diagnosis
Your doctor may want to test your blood glucose levels if you’re overweight (have a body mass index—BMI—of over 25) and if you have one or more of the risk factors listed above.
 
Even if you aren’t overweight and don’t have any of the risk factors, your doctor may want to start testing your blood glucose level every three years beginning when you’re 45. That’s a smart thing to do because the risk of developing prediabetes (and therefore type 2 diabetes) increases with age. Because there are so many possible complications of diabetes (e.g., heart problems and nerve problems), it’s a good idea to be vigilant about detecting blood glucose abnormalities early.
 
To diagnose you with prediabetes, the doctor can run one of two tests—or he or she may decide to do both. The tests are:
Treatments
The American Diabetes Association says that serious lifestyle changes are effective in preventing type 2 diabetes after you’ve been diagnosed with pre-diabetes. Your doctor will walk you through what you need to change, but typical recommendations are:
Your doctor will keep a close watch on your blood glucose levels, monitoring them to make sure that your pre-diabetes doesn’t become type 2 diabetes. If needed, he or she may suggest adjustments (e.g., different diet or more exercise) to better control your blood glucose levels.
 
 

 

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