What is Pre-Diabetes, and How Can You Prevent It?

Written by Amedisys

Diabetes is a major health concern for Americans, remaining the seventh leading cause of death in the United States1 and costing the economy $235 billion.2

Early detection, treatment and lifestyle changes can help decrease the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Read more about pre-diabetes and how you can mitigate your long-term health risks.

What is pre-diabetes? 

Pre-diabetes, which affected more than 84 million Americans in 20152, occurs when individuals have blood glucose levels that are higher than normal but not yet in the diabetic range. Doctors sometimes call this condition “impaired fasting glucose” (IFG) or “impaired glucose tolerance” (IGT), depending on the test used to diagnose.

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Are there risk factors that increase your chances of developing diabetes? 

While the exact cause is unknown, researchers have discovered some genes related to insulin resistance which may increase the risk of pre-diabetes. According to the Mayo Clinic, excess fat – especially abdominal fat – and inactivity also appear to be important factors.

The following factors can increase the likelihood of developing diabetes:

  • Being overweight or obese
  • Having a parent, brother or sister with diabetes
  • Being African American, American Indian, Asian American, Pacific Islander or Hispanic American/Latino heritage
  • Having a prior history of gestational diabetes or birth of at least one baby weighing more than nine pounds
  • Having high blood pressure measuring 140/90 or higher
  • Having abnormal cholesterol with HDL, or “good,” cholesterol being 35 or lower, or the triglyceride level being 250 or higher
  • Being physical inactive, or exercising fewer than three times per week

What are the symptoms of pre-diabetes? 

Pre-diabetes symptoms may not be noticeable in the beginning; however, if you notice the following symptoms, you should speak to your physician about pre-diabetes testing:

  • Increased thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Extreme hunger
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Blurred vision
  • Slow-healing wounds
  • Frequent infections

Should I be tested for diabetes?

Anyone aged 45 years or older should consider getting tested for diabetes, especially if you are overweight. Those younger than 45 and overweight or having one or more additional risk factors should talk with their physicians about getting tested.

How does body weight affect the likelihood of developing diabetes?

Being overweight or obese is a leading risk factor for type 2 diabetes. It can keep your body from making insulin properly and can also cause high blood pressure.

According to the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP), a major federally funded study of 3,234 individuals at high-risk for diabetes showed that moderate diet and exercise of about 30 minutes or more five or more days per week resulted in a 5-7 percent weight loss, which can delay and possibly prevent type 2 diabetes.

If I have pre-diabetes, is it inevitable that I'll develop type 2 diabetes? 

While you certainly have a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes, it is not necessarily inevitable. Studies suggest that weight loss and increased physical activity among those with pre-diabetes can prevent or delay full-blown diabetes and may return blood glucose levels to normal.

1 https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/diabetes.htm
2 http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/statistics/