What is pre-diabetes?

Pre-diabetes means that a person's blood sugar numbers are higher than normal but not high enough to be called diabetes. Millions of people have pre-diabetes but do not know it.

Having pre-diabetes puts you at greater risk for getting type 2 diabetes within the next 10 years. It also means that you are at higher risk for heart disease and stroke.

How do you know if you have pre-diabetes?

If you are at risk for diabetes, your health care provider may want you to be tested. Two blood tests can be done for pre-diabetes and diabetes: a "fasting glucose" test and a "glucose tolerance" test. Your health care provider will tell you which test you should have and will give you instructions.

Should you be tested for pre-diabetes?

You are at higher risk for diabetes and should be tested if:

  • You are overweight or have a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 25 or over. Calculate your BMI online.
  • You are 45 years of age or older
  • You have a parent, brother, sister or child with diabetes
  • Your family background is African American, American Indian, Asian American, Hispanic American/Latino or Pacific Islander
  • You have had diabetes during pregnancy (gestational diabetes) or had a baby that weighed more than 9 pounds at birth
  • Your blood pressure is 140/90 or higher, or you have been told that you have high blood pressure or are on medications to lower your blood pressure
  • Your HDL cholesterol is lower than 40, or your triglyceride level is 250 or higher
  • You are not active, or you exercise less than 3 times a week

If your tests show that your blood sugar is higher than normal, but lower than the diabetes range, then you have pre-diabetes. You should have your blood sugar level tested yearly if your test result is in the pre-diabetes range or if you are at risk for type 2 diabetes.

Can you reverse pre-diabetes?

Yes. Physical activity and losing weight make the body work better and help to lower blood sugar levels. A major study in 2002 found that changes in diet, exercise and weight loss reduced the risk of diabetes by 58%. In fact, many of the people with pre-diabetes returned to normal blood sugar levels.

How can you increase your physical activity?

If you are not already active, start slowly with an activity that you enjoy and gets you moving. Start with about 10 minutes 5 days a week. Slowly build up to 30 minutes a day at least 5 days a week. Remember to:

  • Warm up: This gets your body ready for physical activity. Swing your arms, tap your feet, shrug your shoulders, or march in place. Spend a few minutes doing this first
  • Get moving: Walk, dance, bike, do chair exercise, or anything that is fun for you. Make sure you are in a safe place and have proper clothing including good shoes
  • Cool down: Stretch your arms and legs slowly and don't bounce. Hold each stretch for about 30 seconds. Spend a few minutes doing this after your activity to avoid sore muscles

Other ideas for keeping you physically active:

  • Park farther away from the store and walk
  • Lose your remote control and get up to change the TV channels, or lift light weights when watching TV
  • Walk around while talking on the phone
  • Go to the mall or the local grocery store and walk the aisles. Walking with a shopping cart is helpful if you have problems moving well or keeping your balance
  • Visit places you like with your family, such as the zoo, the museum or a park
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator

What about your weight and diet?

A small weight loss of 5%-7% of your body weight is what you want to aim for. In a 200-pound person this would be 10-15 pounds. You can do this when you add a healthy diet to your physical activity. A healthy diet means fewer calories and less fat. Here are a few tips:

  • Eat 3 small- to medium-size meals at regular times throughout the day
  • Eat more fresh fruit, veggies, nuts and whole grains
  • Keep meat, poultry, and fish servings to about 3 ounces, about the size of a deck of cards
  • Limit fried foods. Baking, broiling and grilling are healthier for you
  • Cut down on the amount you eat of your favorite sweets and high-fat snacks. Eat them less often or eat fruit or veggies as snacks
  • When eating out, take home half the meal as leftovers
  • Drink 6-8 glasses of water every day. Avoid regular soda pop and juice drinks. Cut down on fruit juices

Things to remember

  • Diabetes is a serious disease. Make changes now for better health in the future
  • Ask your health care provider to do a blood test to check for diabetes
  • Be physically active every day
  • Lose a small amount of weight
  • Make healthy food choices and cut down on the amount you eat
DISCLAIMER: The information presented in this site is intended for general information and educational purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of your own physician. Contact your physician if you believe you have a health problem.