Prediabetes

Overview

What is prediabetes?

Before people develop type 2 diabetes, they usually have prediabetes. In people who have prediabetes, blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not high enough to say they have diabetes. Normal "fasting blood sugar" is between 70 and 99 mg per dL. Fasting blood sugar is your blood sugar level you before you have something to eat in the morning. Fasting blood sugar between 100 and 125 mg per dL suggests prediabetes. Fasting blood sugar higher than 126 mg per dL is considered diabetes. People who have prediabetes have a high risk of eventually developing diabetes.

Causes & Risk Factors

Who is at risk?

You are at risk for prediabetes if any of the following are true:

  • You are overweight or obese.

  • You have a parent, brother or sister who has diabetes.

  • You had diabetes during pregnancy (called gestational diabetes) or had a baby who weighed more than 9 pounds at birth.

  • You belong to any of the following ethnic groups: African American, Native American, Latin American or Asian/Pacific Islander.

  • You have high blood pressure (above 140/90 mm Hg).

  • Your high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol level ("good" cholesterol) is less than 40 mg per dL (for men) or less than 50 mg per dl (for women), or your triglyceride level is higher than 250 mg per dL.

  • You are a woman who has polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).

Diagnosis & Tests

How can my doctor tell if I have prediabetes?

Your doctor can give you a blood test to check for prediabetes.

Treatment

Can medicine help prevent or delay diabetes?

Diabetes medicines are not as effective as diet and exercise. However, your doctor might prescribe medicine if you are at high risk for diabetes and have other medical problems, such as obesity, a high triglyceride level, a low HDL cholesterol level or high blood pressure.

Prevention

If I have prediabetes, can I avoid developing diabetes?

You can lower your risk of developing diabetes by making changes in your lifestyle. If you are overweight, losing weight can help. Losing weight also helps lower your blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Exercise is also important. Your exercise routine should include 30 minutes of moderate physical activity (such as brisk walking or swimming) at least 5 times a week. Ask your doctor what exercise level is safe for you.

Follow a healthy diet. Eat foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fish, beans, poultry and other meats. Don’t eat a lot of processed foods or sweeteners such as sugar, honey, maple syrup, agave syrup, or molasses. Eat foods made with whole grains instead of white flour.

Your doctor might refer you to a dietitian or diabetes educator to help you change your eating and exercise habits.

Other Organizations

Questions to Ask Your Doctor

  • If I have prediabetes, will I get diabetes?

  • What is the best step I can take to avoid getting diabetes?

  • My father has diabetes. Should I be screened for prediabetes on a regular basis?

  • I have diabetes. Should I have my children screened for prediabetes?

  • I had gestational diabetes. Should I be screened for prediabetes regularly?

  • Are there any foods I should eat that will help me to avoid prediabetes?

  • Should I speak with a dietitian about changing what I eat?

Citations

  • Impaired Glucose Tolerance and Impaired Fasting Glucose by Shobha S. Rao, M.D., Phillip Disraeli, M.D., and Tamara McGregor, M.D.( 04/15/04, http://www.aafp.org/afp/20040415/1961.html)