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Health Education

How to Identify Prediabetes (And How to Prevent It From Becoming Full-On Diabetes)

Prediabetes is a condition that affects millions of Americans each year, but few have heard of it. As a precursor to diabetes, knowing if you have prediabetes can provide valuable health insight and even add years of healthy living to your life.



March 9, 2017

According to the CDC, 86 million Americans - more than 1 in 3 – have a condition known as prediabetes. What's more, 90% of people with prediabetes don't even know they have it. Despite the rising incidence of this disease (1.4 million Americans are diagnosed with diabetes every year), education and diagnosis are still sorely lacking, giving diabetes free reign to wreak havoc on our health as the 7th leading cause of death in the United States. But we can help make a change! Read on to discover the facts and learn what you can do to stay healthy.

What is prediabetes?

Prediabetes occurs when your blood glucose level (blood sugar level) is higher than normal, but not high enough to be classified as full-blown diabetes

Your body begins to have trouble producing and/or processing insulin, resulting in a buildup of glucose in your blood. This condition is sometimes referred to as “borderline” diabetes, and it’s a warning sign that you’re on your way to a very serious disease.

What are the signs?

The difficulty is, prediabetes generally has no signs or symptoms; it can be diagnosed by your doctor with a simple blood test (either a fasting plasma glucose test, an oral glucose tolerance test, or a haemoglobin A1C test) but there isn’t a list of definitive symptoms that will alert you as to when you should be tested. Instead, the best thing to do is familiarize yourself with the risk factors, and if any apply, follow up with your doctor to learn more.

Risk factors for prediabetes

Researchers aren’t exactly sure what causes the insulin process to go awry in some people. However, there are several risk factors that increase the likelihood of developing prediabetes. They are:

  • Weight. Being overweight is a primary risk factor for prediabetes. The more fat you carry — particularly around your midsection — the more likely you are to develop insulin resistance.
  • Waist size. A large waist size can also indicate insulin resistance. For men, the risk factor increases with a waist measurement larger than 40 inches, for women it’s larger than 35 inches.
  • Diet. Eating red meat and drinking sugar-sweetened beverages has been shown to increase the risk of prediabetes. Conversely, a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, and olive oil is associated with a lower risk of the disease.
  • Inactivity. The less active you are, the greater your risk of prediabetes. Physical activity can help control your weight, use up excess glucose, and increase your cell’s receptivity to insulin.
  • Age. While diabetes can develop at any age, the risk of prediabetes increases after 45. This may be attributed to lower levels of activity, loss of muscle mass, and weight gain as people age.
  • Family history. Your risk of prediabetes increases if you have a family history of Type 2 diabetes.
  • Race. People of certain races - including African-Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders - are more likely to develop prediabetes.
  • Gestational diabetes. Women who developed gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy) or who gave birth to a baby that weighed more than 9 pounds are at higher risk of developing prediabetes.
  • Sleep. People who work changing shifts, night shifts, or who suffer from certain sleep disorders may have an increased risk of insulin resistance.
  • Other health problems. High blood pressure (hypertension) and high cholesterol may increase your risk of prediabetes.

Do I have prediabetes?

As mentioned above, it can be difficult to diagnose prediabetes without a blood test, however, there are some resources that you might find helpful, including this handy site from the CDC.

DoIHavePrediabetes.org provides a whole host of information on the condition, the risks, and lifestyle tips to help you take control of your health. Take the Risk Test today, it will only take a minute and may make a huge difference in how you live your life!

Can it be reversed?

If you do have risk factors for prediabetes, or show some of the signs (as determined by your doctor), it’s not too late to turn things around. 

Think of prediabetes as a fork in the road: ignore it, and your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes goes up. But heed the warning signs and through a few small lifestyle changes, you can turn your prognosis around.

Three key lifestyle changes to make now

Implement the following changes into your current lifestyle and you’ll be well on your way to a drastic reduction in the odds of developing diabetes (science says it’s true):

  1. Lose weight. If you're overweight, losing as little as 5% to 10% of your body weight can greatly reduce your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. Avoid drastic diets and instead, focus on permanent, sustainable changes to your eating and exercise habits. Motivate yourself by reviewing the benefits of life at a healthy weight, including a healthy heart, more energy, and improved self-esteem.
  2. Exercise. If you want to lower your risk of developing diabetes then get out and get moving. Aim for 30 to 60 minutes of moderate physical activity every day. Don’t be intimidated, we’re not talking about smashing it in a spin class or taking a pounding in the boxing ring; physical activity can include cycling, swimming, or even a brisk walk with the dog; anything that gets your heart rate up will do the trick.
  3. Eat right. Have you seen the film Fed Up? How about Supersize Me or That Sugar Film? If the answer is no, allow us to summarize: eating processed foods high in sugar is a sure fire route to obesity and disease. Instead, focus on fruits, vegetables, protein, and whole grains and your body will thank you. Sugar is 8x more addictive than cocaine, so give up the habit ASAP.

Dietitians at Home provides in-home medical nutrition therapy for patients suffering from diabetes and other diseases. Contact us today for a personalized nutrition plan that will improve your quality of life and help you reach your health and wellness goals.


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