More than 1 in 3 Americans has prediabetes, and most don’t know they have it. Diagnosis is important because the long-term damage type 2 diabetes causes in the heart and kidneys, for example, can start when you have prediabetes. Without lifestyle changes, prediabetes can advance to type 2 diabetes. A simple blood test can determine if you have prediabetes or type 2 diabetes.

Blood Sugar Level:

  • Prediabetes 140-199 mg/dL
  • Type 2 diabetes 200 mg/dL or higher

Prediabetes and type 2 diabetes is caused by the same problem with the way your body makes and uses insulin. Insulin moves blood sugar (glucose) into cells, where it is stored and later used for energy. When you have prediabetes, your fat, liver and muscle cells do not respond correctly to insulin, causing insulin resistance. As a result, blood sugar does not get into these cells to be stored for energy. When sugar cannot enter cells, high levels of sugar build up in the blood. This is called hyperglycemia.

This can occur for years with no clear symptoms, making prediabetes hard to detect. Risk factors have been identified which help providers determine who should have their blood sugar tested. These include:

  • Being overweight
  • Waist size larger than 45 inches for women, 35 inches for men
  • Age 45 years or older
  • Type 2 diabetes in parent or sibling
  • Sedentary lifestyle (physical activity less than 3 times/week)
  • Diet high in red or processed meats, sugar-sweetened beverages 
  • History of gestational diabetes
  • History of polycystic ovary syndrome
  • History of obstructive sleep apnea
  • History of smoking
  • Race (African American, Hispanic/Latino American, American Indian, Pacific Islander, some Asian Americans are at higher risk) 

The good news is prediabetes can generally be reversed by eating a healthy diet, getting regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight. Talk to your provider if you have any risk factors. Together you can determine if you should be tested, and what lifestyle changes would reduce your risk.