If you have prediabetes, your blood sugar is higher than it should be and you’re at risk for type 2 diabetes. In fact, most people who develop type 2 diabetes have prediabetes first. The good news is that lifestyle changes may help you get your blood sugar back to normal and avoid or delay diabetes. 

Type 2 diabetes is a lifelong disease that occurs when your pancreas can't make enough insulin or your body's tissues can't use insulin properly. Insulin is a hormone that helps your body’s cells use sugar (glucose) for energy. It also helps your body store extra sugar in muscle, fat and liver cells. Without insulin, sugar stays in your blood and is unable to get into the cells to do its work, causing high blood sugar levels. You have diabetes when your blood sugar stays too high too much of the time.

What causes prediabetes?

Doctors don't know exactly what causes prediabetes. If you’re overweight, aren't physically active, and have a family history of diabetes you’re more likely to get the condition. Women who have had gestational diabetes are also more likely to get prediabetes.

What are the symptoms?

Most people with prediabetes don't have any symptoms. But if you’re diagnosed with prediabetes, you need to watch for signs of diabetes, including feeling very thirsty, urinating more often than usual, feeling very hungry, having blurred vision and losing weight without trying.

How is prediabetes diagnosed?

A blood test can tell if you have prediabetes. You have the condition if the results of your:

  • hemoglobin A1c test are 5.7 percent to 6.4 percent
  • fasting blood glucose test are between 100 and 125 milligrams per deciliter
  • oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) are 140 to 199 mg/dL (2 hours after the beginning of the test).

How is it treated or prevented?

Lifestyle changes are key to treating or preventing prediabetes.

Watch your weight.

If you’re overweight, losing just a small amount of weight may help. Reducing fat around your waist is particularly important. 

Make healthy food choices. Limit how much fat you eat, and try to eat foods that are high in fiber. Try to eat about the same amount of carbohydrate at each meal to help keep your blood sugar steady. Carbohydrate affects blood sugar more than other nutrients. It’s found in sugar and sweets, grains, fruit, starchy vegetables, and milk and yogurt. Talk to your doctor, a diabetes educator or a dietitian about an eating plan that will work for you. There are many ways to manage how much and when you eat.

Be active. 

You can do moderate activity, vigorous activity or both. Bit by bit, increase the amount you do every day. You may want to swim, bike or do other exercise you enjoy. Walking is an easy way to get exercise.

Quit smoking.

Quitting smoking can help reduce your risk of getting prediabetes, type 2 diabetes and other health problems. Quitting can also reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke. CoxHealth offers tobacco cessation classes and counseling. 

Keep your blood pressure and cholesterol under control. If you have prediabetes, you’re more likely to get heart disease than someone with normal blood sugar levels. High cholesterol also increases your risk for type 2 diabetes. 

By following these steps, you may also avoid or delay some of the serious problems you can develop when you have diabetes, such as heart attack, stroke, and heart, eye, nerve, and kidney disease. If your physicians prescribe medicine to help control your blood sugar, be sure you take it as instructed.