Prediabetes is a condition that usually causes no symptoms. But it’s a concern because it’s a precursor to type 2 diabetes. Without intervention, it can develop into a disease that puts you at risk for a range of associated complications.
Prediabetes is diagnosed by blood tests that measure blood sugar and metabolic parameters. There are well-established strategies for treating prediabetes and preventing type 2 diabetes. Diet management, weight loss, and exercise are often effective, but sometimes medication is needed.
Prediabetes is also known as impaired glucose tolerance or impaired fasting blood sugar.
Prediabetes usually affects adults between the ages of 40 and 60.
The condition tends to be silent and rarely causes any noticeable symptoms. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), roughly more than one-third of adults in the United States have prediabetes. Of these, 84% did not know.
Due to the lack of symptoms, most people – once diagnosed – don’t know exactly when their prediabetes started. The condition can remain stable for many years before developing diabetes.
In rare cases, prediabetes does cause symptoms, which are often subtle and can easily be missed or mistaken for other health problems.
Signs of prediabetes include:
- excessive hunger or thirst
- weight gain
- Polyuria (frequent urination caused by increased fluid intake to relieve thirst)
Left untreated, prediabetes can progress to type 2 diabetes, a condition that can lead to many health complications, including:
- heart disease
- Vascular disease
- Cerebrovascular disease
- impaired wound healing
- infection tendency
Prediabetes is not associated with type 1 diabetes (a form that usually affects young children) or diabetes insipidus (a disease that affects the kidneys).
Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes
Prediabetes occurs when cells in the body become resistant to insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas. It keeps blood sugar levels within a healthy range by helping cells in the body store glucose. Ultimately, cells convert glucose into energy.
If you have prediabetes, you may be making enough insulin, but your body’s cells are resistant to insulin and its effects. This results in slightly higher blood sugar levels, and lower energy levels.
What is insulin resistance?
There are several risk factors associated with prediabetes, but the exact cause of this condition is unknown. People who don’t get much physical activity may be at risk of developing prediabetes.
High blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, obesity and excess body fat, especially in the abdominal area, are associated with prediabetes. It is unclear whether these health problems are caused by prediabetes or prediabetes, or whether they are both caused by other factors.
deal with belly fat
Before prediabetes develops, some metabolic changes may occur.
Insulin resistance is a condition that begins before prediabetes and may not cause high blood sugar.
A similar disorder called metabolic syndrome is characterized by elevated body mass index (BMI), high blood pressure, high cholesterol and insulin resistance.
Because prediabetes usually does not cause symptoms, it is often detected during routine diabetes screenings. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends that adults start screening at age 35 and repeat the test every three years if the results are normal.
The ADA also recommends that for everyone with a high BMI (BMI of 25 kg/m2 or higher, except Asian Americans, whose high BMI is defined as 23 kg/m2 or higher) and one or more other risk factors for diabetes, E.g:
- Belonging to a high-risk racial or ethnic group: Specifically, these are African American, Latino, Native American, Asian American, and Pacific Islander
- A parent or sibling with a history of diabetes
- have a history of cardiovascular disease
- have high blood pressure (blood pressure 140/90 mmHg or higher) or are taking medication
- Low high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol or high triglycerides
- Physical inactivity
- have conditions associated with insulin resistance, including acanthosis nigricans, severe obesity, or polycystic ovary syndrome
In addition, the following persons should be tested:
- have gestational diabetes (should be checked every three years)
- have prediabetes (should be tested annually)
- is HIV positive?
Often with prediabetes, blood sugar is only mildly elevated, so more than one blood test may be required to definitively diagnose the condition.
Tests used to screen for prediabetes include:
- Fasting blood sugar test: This test measures your blood sugar after you have fasted for 8 hours. Normal fasting blood glucose is less than 100 mg/dL. Any value in the range of 100 to 125 mg/dL indicates prediabetes; levels of 126 mg/dL or above indicate diabetes.
- Glucose tolerance test: This test measures your blood sugar levels before and after drinking carbohydrate drinks. Normal glucose levels after drinking a 75-gram glucose load are less than 140 mg/dL. 140 to 199 mg/dL results indicate prediabetes, 200 mg/dL or higher indicates diabetes.
- A1C test: Gluconate (sticks to hemoglobin A), a protein found in red blood cells. Once this is done, the glucose remains there for the lifetime of hemoglobin A, which can last as long as 120 days. The A1C test measures the percentage of hemoglobin A protein glycation. For example, an A1C of 7% means that 7% of the hemoglobin A protein is glycated. In the process, it tells you your average blood sugar level for the previous two to three months. Prediabetes was diagnosed when the A1C test was in the 5.7% to 6.4% range. Any value below 5.7% is considered normal. An A1C of 6.5% or higher is considered diabetes.
The Best Home Diabetes Tests for 2022
blood sugar monitoring
Although not required for prediabetes, some people choose to monitor their blood sugar regularly at home. This can help you track the effects of your treatment plan.
There are many easy-to-use blood glucose monitors, including options for continuous monitoring of blood sugar levels.
The 7 Best Blood Glucose Meters of 2022
Treatment of prediabetes focuses on lifestyle changes aimed at preventing the condition from progressing to type 2 diabetes. Losing a small amount of weight (if you are overweight) and getting regular physical activity has been shown to help prevent or delay type 2 diabetes.
It’s important to be consistent when making these changes; regular doctor visits and blood sugar monitoring can help you stay on track.
Steps you can take to manage prediabetes include:
- Weight loss: Even modest weight loss — 5 to 10 percent of your body weight — can prevent or slow the progression of diabetes.
- Reduce carbohydrate intake: Carbohydrates have a greater impact on blood sugar than other macronutrients. It’s especially important to avoid refined carbohydrates, such as white bread, pasta, rice, and snacks. It also helps eliminate fruit juices and other sweetened beverages and increases your intake of non-starchy vegetables.
- Follow a Mediterranean diet: This means focusing on fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats like nuts, seeds, and olive oil.
- Be more active: Not only does exercise help with weight control, it also helps your body use insulin better. Physical activity (along with weight loss) can help reduce your risk of diabetes by nearly 60%.
If lifestyle changes are ineffective, your healthcare provider may recommend a drug such as Glucophage (metformin) to help control blood sugar. This drug has been shown to help prevent the development of type 2 diabetes.
Strength Training Exercises for Type 2 Diabetes
A word from Willie
Screening is important if you have any diabetes risk factors. If your tests show signs of prediabetes, simple lifestyle changes—weight loss, exercise, a diet low in sugar, unhealthy fats, and nutrient-rich—are often enough to prevent diabetes and improve your overall health and well-being as well .