Prediabetes

Prediabetes is a condition in which your blood sugar is too high, but not high enough to call it diabetes. Having prediabetes makes you at risk for type 2 diabetes.

Education Topics

Activity

Linda's story: Busy mom finds ways to stay active

Linda, 39
Read more about Linda and how she founds ways to add exercise to her day.
"Walking is great for me, because I don't have to buy anything to do it, and it doesn't take a lot of my time."

Linda works full time, has three young children, and has zero time for the gym. So when she learned that she had prediabetes, she had to find creative ways to fit activity into her day.

"My trick is to not call it 'exercise.' Instead, I just look for ways to add small workouts to my day," she says.

For example, after dinner she turns up the stereo and does dance moves while washing dishes, putting food away, and cleaning the kitchen.

"It takes about a half-hour and is a great workout," she says. "My kids get a big kick out of it too."

At work, she walks at lunch by herself or with a friend.

"Walking is great for me, because I don't have to buy anything to do it, and it doesn't take a lot of my time," she says.

While watching TV, Linda uses small hand weights to do arm lifts during commercial breaks.

Every little bit helps

At 39, with a family history of type 2 diabetes, Linda says she should have watched her weight more carefully. She wasn't too surprised by her prediabetes diagnosis. But she got motivated right away to do what she could about it.

"I watched my mom give herself shots every day. Sometimes she needed my help," Linda says. "She had the hardest time keeping her blood sugar down and figuring out what to eat. I don't want to go down that road if I can avoid it."

Linda uses the plate format to help her make healthy eating choices. She fills half of her plate with vegetables or adds a salad to go with lunch. One-quarter of her plate is a meat or meat substitute. The final quarter of her plate is for breads, starches, or grains. She chooses whole grains as often as possible. She also enjoys a small piece of fruit and some low-fat or fat-free milk or yogurt.

"In general, I try to limit added sugar," she says. "But you have to live a little. My motto is: Everything in moderation."

This story is based on information gathered from many people facing this health issue.

Prediabetes: Getting started with exercise

If you've been diagnosed with prediabetes, you have a chance to keep it from progressing to type 2 diabetes. One way to do this is by getting regular exercise. Here are some ideas that can help you get active.

  • First, check with your doctor.

    Talk with your doctor about how and when to exercise. You may need to have a medical exam and special tests (such as a treadmill test) before you start.

  • Choose a type of activity that you like.

    You'll be more likely to keep doing the program if you choose something you like and that fits easily into your daily schedule. Any type of physical activity may be helpful, such as:

    • Sports or other types of exercise, such as walking, jogging, swimming, or biking.
    • Work-related activities or household work, such as vacuuming or gardening.
  • Get enough exercise.

    Experts say to do either:

    Moderate activity for at least 2½ hours a week.

    One way to do this is to be active 30 minutes a day, at least 5 days a week. Moderate activity means things like brisk walking, brisk cycling, or ballroom dancing. But any activities (including daily chores) that raise your heart rate can be included. You notice your heart beating faster with this kind of activity.

    Vigorous activity for at least 1¼ hours a week.

    One way to do this is to be active 25 minutes a day, at least 3 days a week. Vigorous activity means things like jogging, cycling fast, or cross-country skiing. You breathe rapidly and your heart beats much faster with this kind of activity.

    It's fine to be active in blocks of 10 minutes or more throughout your day and week.

  • Add some strength-building activities.

    Try doing muscle-strengthening exercises at least 2 times a week. These exercises include push-ups and weight training. You can also use rubber tubing or stretch bands. Work the major muscle groups: legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms.

  • Be safe.
    • Drink plenty of water before, during, and after you're active. If you've been exercising intensely or for more than 1 hour, consider a sports drink to help replace electrolytes lost through sweating.
    • Don't exercise if you are sick or injured. Exercise indoors if it's very hot or cold outside.
    • Wear shoes and socks that fit well.

Complications and Comorbidities

How can you lower your risk for heart disease when you have prediabetes?

When you have prediabetes, you’re more likely to get heart disease than someone who has normal blood sugar levels. If you have high blood pressure or high cholesterol, your risk for heart disease is even higher. To help lower your risk, it's important to keep a heart-healthy lifestyle. This includes being active, eating healthy foods, staying at a healthy weight, and not smoking.

Definition

Prediabetes

Prediabetes is a condition in which your blood sugar is too high, but not high enough to call it diabetes. Having prediabetes makes you at risk for type 2 diabetes.

Diagnostics

How is prediabetes diagnosed?

Your doctor will ask questions about your medical history. You will also get a physical exam and blood glucose testing. The results help your doctor see if you have prediabetes and are at risk for type 2 diabetes.

Medication Therapy

How is medicine used to treat prediabetes?

If you need medicine, your doctor is most likely to prescribe metformin (Glucophage). It reduces how much glucose the liver makes. It can also lower insulin resistance.

Overview

Prediabetes: Overview

Prediabetes is a warning sign that you're at risk for getting type 2 diabetes. It means that your blood sugar is higher than it should be. But it's not high enough to be diabetes.

The food you eat naturally turns into sugar. Your body uses the sugar for energy. Normally, an organ called the pancreas makes insulin. And insulin allows the sugar in your blood to get into your body’s cells. But sometimes the body can’t use insulin the right way. So the sugar stays in your blood instead. This is called insulin resistance. The buildup of sugar in your blood means you have prediabetes.

The good news is that you may be able to prevent or delay diabetes. Making small lifestyle changes, like getting active and changing your eating habits, may help you get your blood sugar back to normal. You can work with your doctor to make a treatment plan.

Prevention

How can you prevent prediabetes?

You can help prevent prediabetes by staying at a healthy weight, eating healthy foods, and getting regular exercise.

How can you prevent prediabetes?

Your risk for prediabetes is higher if you're overweight and physically inactive. To help prevent prediabetes:

Watch your weight.

Try to lose 7% to 10% of your body weight. For example, if you weigh 200 pounds, aim to lose 14 to 20 pounds. The easiest way to lose weight is to cut calories and be more active.

Make healthy food choices.

It can be hard to make big changes in the way you eat. It's okay to start small. Limit calories, sweets, and unhealthy fats. Eat more fruits, vegetables, and fiber.

Be active.

When you're active, your body uses glucose. The more active you are, the more glucose your body uses for energy. This keeps the sugar from building up in your blood. Exercise can also improve insulin resistance. Walking is a great way to start.

If you already have prediabetes, these same steps can keep it from turning into type 2 diabetes.

Risk Factors

What puts you at risk for prediabetes?

You are more likely to get prediabetes if you:

  • Are overweight.
  • Get little or no exercise.
  • Have type 2 diabetes in your family.

Other things that may increase your risk for prediabetes include:

Age.
The risk of getting prediabetes and type 2 diabetes increases with age. But the number of children with type 2 diabetes is increasing. Usually, children who get type 2 diabetes have a family history of the disease, are overweight, and aren't physically active.
Race and ethnicity.
African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, Asian Americans, and Pacific Islanders are at higher risk than whites for type 2 diabetes.
History of gestational diabetes.
Women who have had gestational diabetes are at higher risk for getting type 2 diabetes later in life.

Other health problems can put you at risk for prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. These include:

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
PCOS is a hormone imbalance that interferes with normal ovulation. It can cause problems with a woman's periods and make it harder to get pregnant.
History of heart disease.

The risk factors for getting heart disease also increase the risk for developing type 2 diabetes.

High blood pressure.

Untreated high blood pressure can increase the risk for getting type 2 diabetes.

Low HDL cholesterol and high triglyceride level.

A low level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and/or a high level of triglycerides can increase the risk for getting type 2 diabetes.

Conditions linked with insulin resistance.

For example, acanthosis nigricans, which is a skin condition.

Self-care Treatment Options

How can you care for yourself when you have prediabetes?

  • Watch your weight. A healthy weight helps your body use insulin properly.
  • Limit the amount of calories, sweets, and unhealthy fat you eat. Ask your doctor if you should see a dietitian. A registered dietitian can help you create meal plans that fit your lifestyle.
  • Get at least 30 minutes of exercise on most days of the week. Exercise helps control your blood sugar. It also helps you maintain a healthy weight. Walking is a good choice. You also may want to do other activities, such as running, swimming, cycling, or playing tennis or team sports.
  • Do not smoke. Smoking can make prediabetes worse. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines. These can increase your chances of quitting for good.
  • If your doctor prescribed medicines, take them exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor if you think you are having a problem with your medicine. You will get more details on the specific medicines your doctor prescribes.

Signs and Symptoms

What are the symptoms of prediabetes?

Most of the time, people with prediabetes do not have symptoms.

Story

Jerry’s story: Beating prediabetes

Jerry, 54
Read more about Jerry and how he got support for his lifestyle changes.
"I met a lot of other people who felt the same way I did at first about prediabetes. Like, how can I fight it? But it turns out there's a lot you can do."

Jerry has a message for everyone who is diagnosed with prediabetes.

"Take it seriously," he says. "Of all the risks for diabetes you can have, this one is really influenced by the choices you make."

That wasn't how Jerry felt when he first learned he had prediabetes. His doctor told him to lose weight and get more exercise or else run the risk of getting type 2 diabetes. Jerry was angry and frustrated.

"I thought, 'What's the point? I might still get diabetes,'" Jerry says. "I felt like I was stuck either way."

He also didn't see how he could fit exercise into his day. Four days a week he works 12-hour shifts as an engineer at a computer company. The other days he catches up on household chores and yard work.

Gift of motivation

So for a few months, Jerry did nothing. At 54, he figured it was too late for him to make any big changes in his life anyway.

On his 18th wedding anniversary, Jerry's wife, Laura, gave him a present that changed his attitude. It was a scrapbook of photos from camping trips they'd taken during their marriage. One showed Jerry and Laura atop Half Dome in Yosemite National Park, smiling like crazy.

With the book came a note from Laura. It said, "Let's still be doing this 18 years from now."

"I looked at those pictures and thought about the future," he says. "I realized I wanted to get healthy so I could keep doing all those things I enjoy so much."

Jerry went to a prediabetes class that his doctor prescribed. During the 2-hour class, Jerry learned about how being overweight and inactive makes it harder for the body to keep blood sugar levels normal. And he finally understood why making lifestyle changes is so important.

"I met a lot of other people who felt the same way I did at first about prediabetes. Like, how can I fight it? But it turns out there's a lot you can do."

Staying focused

Jerry signed up for a weight-loss program, and he started keeping a daily food diary to track what and when he ate. He was able to see where he could cut back on calories and saturated fats. He also ate fewer sweets. He added walks around the neighborhood to his routine, and he started doing light weights at the gym.

He also uses a phone app to track his activity, and he tries to think up ways to get more steps.

"I park my car at the back of the lot and take the stairs when I can," he says. "On my break, I walk around the outside of the building a few times."

In 7 months, Jerry dropped 25 pounds—about 7% of his body weight.

"It hasn't been easy. I've had some ups and downs, especially over the holidays. Hey, I love to eat. Sometimes it's hard to stay focused on the long-term goal. But tracking what, when, and why I eat helps me to eat less," he says.

Jerry's wife, Laura, has been a big help, he says. She joined the weight-loss program too. They plan and cook meals together on weekends. That way, Jerry has healthy food ready to take for his long shifts at work.

Making a difference

When he went back to his doctor for another blood test, Jerry's blood sugar had dropped below the prediabetes range. He still needs to get tested on a regular basis. But that motivates him to keep up his routine.

"Taking care of yourself can make a huge difference in your health," he says. "It's possible I might still get type 2 diabetes at some point. But I know that even if I do, I'm way ahead in terms of managing it. So don't sit around and wait for it to happen. Get up and move!"

This story is based on information gathered from many people facing this health issue.

Treatment Options

How is prediabetes treated?

Prediabetes can be treated by making lifestyle changes, taking medicine, or doing both. Lifestyle changes include losing weight if you need to, keeping healthy eating habits, and getting active. Treatment may help get your blood sugar level back to a more normal range. It could help you prevent or delay type 2 diabetes.

What Causes It

What causes prediabetes?

Prediabetes is caused by a buildup of sugar in your blood. Insulin allows sugar to get into your body's cells. When your body can't use insulin the right way, the sugar doesn't move into your body's cells. And that's how it builds up in your blood.

What It Is

What is prediabetes?

Prediabetes is a warning sign that you are at risk for getting type 2 diabetes. It means that your blood sugar is higher than it should be, but not high enough to be diabetes.

More Topics 

Shop Related Categories

  • Monitors & Kits

  • Nutrition Bars & Drinks

  • Fitness Technology

  • Nutrition Drinks & Shakes

  • Blood Glucose

More Categories

Explore Prediabetes Products

Why these products?

Filter by Category
Filter by Price