You’ve Been Diagnosed with Prediabetes. Now What?

diabetes and exerciseA prediabetes diagnosis may come as a surprise, but it may be the wake-up call you need to change your health and lifestyle habits. Understanding prediabetes and your risk factors are important steps in staying ahead of the disease.

What Is Prediabetes?

Prediabetes means that the level of sugar (glucose) in your blood is too high. If you have prediabetes, you’re at risk for developing type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is diagnosed when the level of glucose in the blood reaches a certain high level. With prediabetes, it hasn’t reached this point yet, but it’s higher than normal. It’s important to make lifestyle changes to lower your blood sugar, improve your health and prevent diabetes.

Why Worry About Prediabetes?

Prediabetes is a disease where the body’s cells have trouble using glucose in the blood for energy. As a result, too much glucose stays in the blood and can affect how your heart and blood vessels work. Without changes in diet and lifestyle, the problem can get worse. Once you have type 2 diabetes, it’s chronic (ongoing) and needs to be managed for the rest of your life. Diabetes can harm the body and your health by damaging organs, such as your eyes and kidneys. It makes you more likely to have heart disease. And it can damage nerves and blood vessels.

Risk Factors For Prediabetes

The exact cause of prediabetes isn’t clear. But certain risk factors make a person more likely to have it. These include:

  • A family history of type 2 diabetes
  • Being overweight
  • Being over age 40
  • Having had gestational diabetes
  • Not being physically active
  • Being African American, Asian-American, Hispanic, Native American or Pacific Islander

Diagnosing Prediabetes

Prediabetes has no symptoms. The only way to find it is with a blood test. You may have had one or more of these blood tests:

  • Fasting glucose test. Blood is taken and tested after you have not eaten for at least eight hours.
  • Glucose tolerance test. Your blood sugar is measured before and after you drink a very sugary liquid.
  • Hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c). Your HbA1c is normal if it is below 5.7 percent. Prediabetes is 5.7 to 6.4 percent. Diabetes is 6.5 percent or higher.

Treating Prediabetes

The best way to treat prediabetes is to lose at least 5 to 7 percent of your current weight and be more physically active by getting at least 30 minutes of exercise five days a week. These changes help the body’s cells use blood sugar better. Even a small amount of weight loss can help. Work with your health care provider to make a plan to eat well and be more active. Keep in mind that small changes can add up. Other changes in your lifestyle may make you less likely to develop diabetes. Your health care provider can talk with you about these.

Follow Up

If it is untreated, prediabetes can turn into diabetes. This is a serious health condition. Take steps to stop this from happening. Follow the treatment plan you’ve been given. You may have your blood glucose tested again in about 12 to 18 months.

Find out what you know about prediabetes by taking this free online quiz.

Join the conversation. What are you doing to avoid prediabetes or to manage the disease if you’ve been diagnosed? Tell us about it. 

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