1 in 3 American adults have pre-diabetes – and nearly 80% of people with pre-diabetes don’t even know they have it!
Prediabetes is extremely common. However, it is important that you know the causes so that you can delay or prevent it, especially if you are at higher risk of developing it.
This article will explain what prediabetes is, as well as symptoms, causes, and prevention tips.
What is pre-diabetes?
Prediabetes is diagnosed when blood sugar levels (both fasting and after meals) are higher than normal, but not high enough to make a diagnosis of diabetes.
Without intervention, people diagnosed with prediabetes are much more likely to develop type 2 diabetes.
Blood sugar levels to diagnose prediabetes are as follows:
- Fasting blood sugar between 100-125 mg/dL
- Blood sugar 2 hours after a meal between 140-199 mg/dl
- HbA1c test between 5.7-6.4%
The good news is that with dietary changes and increased physical activity, prediabetes can be easily managed and even prevented with the right interventions at the right time.
What are the symptoms of prediabetes?
Prediabetes often has no symptoms, which can make diagnosis and treatment difficult.
People live with prediabetes for years without being diagnosed.
This can lead to health complications later in life, including vision changes, heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, and even premature death.
It’s good to know the early symptoms. Talk to your doctor if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Frequent urination/polyuria
- Extreme hunger
- Dry mouth
- Fruity breath smell
- Blurred vision/vision changes
- Slowly healing wounds
Contact your doctor immediately if any of these symptoms persist for at least two weeks without explanation. Ask for a blood glucose test to rule out prediabetes.
Learn more: How often should you test for prediabetes?
Who is more at risk of prediabetes?
Certain groups of people are more likely to develop prediabetes.
While some risk categories are within your control, others, such as your family history, are beyond your control. The more groups you fall into, the greater your risk of pre-diabetes.
factors that you I can’t control:
- You have an immediate relative who has type 2 diabetes
- You are 45 or older
- You are African American, Hispanic, Native American, Pacific Islander, or Asian American
- You have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
- You have Cushing’s syndrome or acromegaly
- You have sleep apnea
- You had gestational diabetes during your pregnancy
- You take steroids for a medical condition, are on antipsychotic or anti-HIV drugs
The following risk factors you Power control and modify to reduce the risk of prediabetes:
- You are overweight or obese
- You eat a poor diet full of saturated fats and added sugars
- You lead a sedentary lifestyle and do not exercise regularly
- You have uncontrolled high blood pressure and/or high cholesterol
- You have metabolic syndrome, which is a combination of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and a large waist circumference
- You smoke
- You drink alcohol
Make small lifestyle changes to drastically reduce your risk of prediabetes.
What causes prediabetes?
Although there is no single risk factor causes prediabetes, having one or more risk factors increases your chances of developing prediabetes. The exact cause of prediabetes is still unknown, but family history and genetics play a big role.
However, research shows that the main risk factor for prediabetes is being overweight or obese. This does not mean that if you are overweight or obese you will automatically develop prediabetes.
Not everyone with prediabetes is overweight or obese. But if you are overweight or obese, your risk of prediabetes increases.
This is because the more body fat you have, especially around your abdominal organs, the more insulin resistant you become. Over time, insulin resistance turns into prediabetes.
Losing body fat increases insulin sensitivity and reduces the risk of prediabetes. Even a loss of 5-7% of body weight can significantly affect the risk of pre-diabetes.
Talk to your doctor if you are concerned about your weight or if you fall into several categories of risk factors for prediabetes. They can help you formulate a plan to take control of your health and reduce your risk of disease.
How to prevent pre-diabetes?
Not all cases of prediabetes can be prevented. However, there are many ways to reduce your risk of pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes.
Some strategies may include:
- Lose excess weight or maintain a healthy weight
- Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate activity per week (about 30 minutes or more per day) and two days of strength training per week
- Work with a Registered Dietitian (RD) to create a healthy meal plan
- Limit all processed foods and foods with added sugar
- Manage stress levels
- Sleep 7-9 hours a day
- Take all prescription medications as directed
- quit smoking
- Limit alcohol consumption
How to deal with pre-diabetes?
Prediabetes can be managed primarily with a proper diet and exercise. Healthy weight loss has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity and delay or prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes.
Drugs such as metformin can be prescribed, but studies have shown that diet and exercise are just as effective, if not more so.
Sometimes people are prescribed insulin to manage pre-diabetes.
Learn more: Pre-diabetes medications: what are the options?
Is prediabetes reversible?
Yes! The good thing about prediabetes is that it is reversible with prompt intervention.
A healthy diet and exercise are recommended to prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes. A common goal is to lose 5-7% of total body weight.
Talk to your doctor about the lifestyle changes you need to reverse prediabetes.
Better yet, ask for a referral to the National Diabetes Prevention Program, which has been proven to reverse pre-diabetes and prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes by up to 58% (and 71% in those over 60).
Learn more: What is the most effective way to reverse pre-diabetes?
What Foods Should You Avoid If You Have Prediabetes?
If you have prediabetes, you’ll want to eat foods that increase insulin sensitivity, not insulin resistance.
Foods that exacerbate insulin resistance include:
- Fatty, greasy and fried foods
- Processed food
- Foods and drinks with added sugar
- Sweet spices
Instead, stick to a diet full of unprocessed foods, fiber, and water.
Instead, try these healthy — and delicious — options:
- Vegetables: kale, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower
- Fruits with a low glycemic index: blueberries and strawberries
- Lean proteins: chicken, tofu, turkey and fish
- Low-fat dairy: Greek yogurt and milk
- Healthy fats: avocados, extra virgin olive oil and nuts
Learn more: Pre-diabetes diet: what to eat and what to avoid