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 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. 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.
Prediabetes is also called impaired glucose tolerance or impaired fasting glucose. Most people who get type 2 diabetes have prediabetes first.
What are the symptoms of prediabetes?
Most of the time, people with prediabetes do not have symptoms.
What causes prediabetes?
The food you eat turns into sugar, which your body uses for energy. Normally, an organ called the pancreas makes insulin, which allows the sugar in your blood to get into your body's cells. But when your body can't use insulin the right way, the sugar doesn't move into your cells. It stays in your blood instead. The buildup of sugar in your blood causes prediabetes.
Prediabetes: Healthy Changes You Can Make
How is prediabetes diagnosed?
Your doctor will ask questions about your medical history. You will also get a physical exam and blood sugar (glucose) testing. The results help your doctor see if you have prediabetes and are at risk for getting type 2 diabetes.
Blood tests used to diagnose prediabetes in adults include:
- Fasting blood glucose test.
- This test is usually done after you fast overnight for 8 hours.
- Hemoglobin A1c.
- This test estimates your blood sugar over the past 2 to 3 months.
- Oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT).
- For an OGTT, your blood sugar is measured after fasting. Then it's tested again 2 hours after you drink a special glucose liquid.
How is prediabetes treated?
When you have prediabetes, you have a chance to prevent or delay type 2 diabetes. Treatment focuses on:
- Watching your weight.
- A healthy weight helps your body use insulin the way it should. If you're overweight, losing weight can also lower your body's resistance to insulin.
- Making healthy food choices.
- Limit the amount of saturated fat and trans fat you eat. Cut calories and limit sweets.
- Getting active.
- Exercise keeps sugar from building up in your blood. It can also improve insulin resistance.
- Quitting smoking, if you smoke.
- Medicines and counseling can help.
- Preventing or managing high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
- Medicines can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol.
Doing these things will also help you avoid other health problems, like heart disease and stroke, that are linked to diabetes.
You may need to take medicine called metformin. It reduces the amount of sugar made by the liver in people who are insulin-resistant.
Prediabetes: Which Path Will You Take?
How can you care for yourself when you have prediabetes?
You can make healthy changes to help prevent or delay type 2 diabetes.
- Limit the amount of calories, sweets, and unhealthy fat you eat.
- Lose weight if you need to. Even losing a small amount of weight can help.
- Try to exercise at least 2½ hours a week. Bit by bit, increase the amount you do every day.
When you have prediabetes, you're also at higher risk for heart disease and stroke. You can lower your risk by:
- Managing other health problems, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Exercise, healthy eating, and/or medicine can help with these goals.
- Quitting smoking. Quitting smoking might help you reduce your risk for type 2 diabetes and heart disease and help you avoid other health problems that make diabetes worse.
Copyrighted material adapted with permission from Healthwise, Incorporated. This information does not replace the advice of a doctor.