by Ariana Pichardo-Lowden, M.D.

Did you know that approximately 1 in 3 adults in the United States have prediabetes, but only about 20% of them are aware of their condition? (1) You can learn about your own risk for prediabetes and act to prevent its progression to type 2 diabetes. 

Prediabetes is a condition where blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not sufficiently elevated to be characterized as diabetes.  It is commonly related to the body’s resistance to insulin that is produced in the pancreas.  Lifestyle and genetics significantly influence the development of prediabetes and diabetes.  However, some factors can be modified and that way successfully help maintain good health. Consider the following risk factors:

  • 45 years of age or older
  • American Indian, Alaska Native, African-American, Asian American, Hispanic/Latino, native Hawaiian, or Pacific Islander American ethnicity
  • Overweight or obesity
  • A biological parent or sibling with diabetes
  • Physical inactivity
  • Having had a baby 9 pounds or heavier
  • History of any one of the following: heart disease, stroke, hypertension, high cholesterol and/or high triglycerides, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), or gestational diabetes

There are other situations that can increase the risk for developing high sugar such as taking steroid medications, HIV treatment, certain antipsychotic medications, sleep apnea, history of pancreatitis, and hormone problems such as elevated cortisol or growth hormone excess.

Reviewing any of these risk factors with your healthcare provider and conducting appropriate testing can help detect prediabetes and facilitate actions for management.  The following test results indicate prediabetes:

  • Fasting glucose level between 100 to 125 mg/dL
  • 2-hour glucose tolerance test between 140 to 199 mg/dL
  • Glycohemoglobin (A1C) level between 5.7 to 6.4%

Reversing prediabetes or preventing progression to type 2 diabetes is possible through lifestyle changes and taking medications (2). The following strategies help achieve that important health goal:

  • Engaging in at least 30 minutes of exercise five days a week
  • Losing at least 7% of total body weight
  • Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet
  • Managing stress
  • Taking metformin or other medications as suggested by a healthcare provider

By doing this, the body becomes more sensitive to insulin, which is the main hormone that regulates sugar metabolism.  Avoiding foods with a high content of sugar such as sugar-sweetened beverages, baked goods, candy, and processed grains and bread can also promote weight loss and help control and prevent prediabetes.

Make a plan today!  Talk to your healthcare provider about risk factors for prediabetes and diabetes. You can assess your overall risk by taking the risk test provided by the American Diabetes Association (ADA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  Prediabetes is a common and undesirable health condition but the good thing is that it can be prevented or controlled.

Sources: (1); (2) Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) – NIDDK (