What is Prediabetes?

When blood sugar levels are routinely above normal but not high enough to be considered diabetes, you may be diagnosed as being prediabetic. Nearly 80 million Americans have blood sugar (glucose) levels higher than normal. While this doesn’t necessarily mean a diabetes diagnosis is the next step, it should serve as an incentive to make productive lifestyle adjustments.

What are the Symptoms of Prediabetes?

There are no definitive symptoms of prediabetes, detection often occurs during a regular physical exam. It’s also a good idea to have blood sugar levels checked if you have a family history of diabetes or risk factors such as being overweight, having a fairly sedentary lifestyle, or having high blood pressure or cholesterol levels.


What are the Symptoms of Prediabetes?

A diagnosis of prediabetes is made through the results of a blood test to confirm key indicators. These include an A1C level ranging from 5.7 percent to 6.4 percent, fasting blood sugar ranging from 100 to 125 mg/dl, and an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) showing a 2-hour glucose ranging from 140 mg/dl to 199 mg/dl. The American Diabetes Association recommends prediabetics be checked for type 2 diabetes every 1-2 years.

Preventing the Onset of Diabetes

Being diagnosed as “at risk” for diabetes does allow some time to make healthy lifestyle changes before consistently high glucose levels damage nerve cells and cause other internal issues. Early treatment in the form of preventative measures often restores blood sugar levels back to a normal range.

Prediabetes Causes

The cause of prediabetes is a change in your body’s blood sugar levels, going beyond normal, but not high enough to be called diabetes. Blood sugar is also referred to as glucose and it comes from the foods we ingest. Our body uses it for energy or stores it for later.

The most common cause of prediabetes is the resistance to insulin produced by the pancreas. The pancreas monitors the volume of glucose in our body, releasing insulin when the sugar levels rise. Insulin moves the blood sugar to the cells so we can burn it. Without insulin, the sugar levels increase, setting off a health condition known as hyperglycemia or high blood sugar.

Although genetics play a role in prediabetes leading to diabetes, other factors also make a difference. In some families, the individual may inherit the vulnerability, but an unhealthy combination of lifestyle elements, such as weight, diet and physical movement, triggers the condition. There are cases where both parents need to be carriers before affecting the offspring.

Preventive steps can include:

  • Losing 7-10 percent of your body weight (if you are currently overweight)
  • Exercising at least 20-30 minutes per day or about 2 1/2 hours per week based on recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • Adopting a diet that includes a mix of green leafy vegetables, bright-colored fruits, low-fat dairy products, and lean proteins

Prediabetes Prevention

Prediabetes is a wakeup call for many. It is possible to reverse prediabetes with specific lifestyle changes. The best prevention is keeping a healthy weight along with regular exercise; at least three to five hours each week will burn the glucose and keep the pancreas working to balance the production of insulin. A diet rich in natural foods fuels the body functions.

Genetics may not be a major factor in prediabetes, but it helps to learn about your family’s history as a preventative measure. Your awareness of the family’s history can be motivational to prevent the onset of more serious health conditions. Be sure to share your medical history with your doctor, who may request regular blood draw to watch your glucose and cholesterol counts for health prevention.

Last Reviewed:
October 09, 2016
Last Updated:
January 11, 2018