Prediabetes is a warning of Type 2 diabetes. It means your blood sugar levels are elevated but not enough to be Type 2 diabetes. There are lifestyle changes you can make to manage or reverse prediabetes, like getting more physical activity and adjusting eating patterns and habits.
Healthy blood sugar (glucose) levels are 70 to 99 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL). If you have undiagnosed prediabetes, your levels are typically 100 to 125 mg/dL.
According to the American Diabetes Association, for people 45 years old with prediabetes, the 10-year risk of developing Type 2 diabetes is 9% to 14%. The good news is that it’s possible to reverse prediabetes with healthy lifestyle changes.
Prediabetes is very common. Researchers estimate that 84 million adults in the U.S. have prediabetes. It affects more than 1 in 3 adults under age 65 and half of people over 65 in the U.S.
More than 80% of people with prediabetes don’t know they have it, as it often has no symptoms.
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Most people with prediabetes don’t have any symptoms. This is why it’s important to see your primary care provider regularly so they can do screenings, like a basic metabolic panel, to check on your blood sugar levels. This is the only way to know if you have prediabetes.
For the few people who do experience symptoms of prediabetes, they may include:
The cause of prediabetes is the same as the cause of Type 2 diabetes — mainly, insulin resistance.
Insulin resistance happens when cells in your muscles, fat and liver don’t respond as they should to insulin. Insulin is a hormone your pancreas makes that’s essential for life and regulating blood sugar levels. When you don’t have enough insulin or your body doesn’t respond properly to it, you experience elevated blood sugar levels.
Several factors can contribute to insulin resistance, including:
Risk factors for prediabetes include:
Race and ethnicity are also factors. You’re at increased risk if you are:
Some of these risk factors you can’t change, like your age and family history (genetics). But others, like physical inactivity and smoking, you can help improve. The more of these risk factors you have, the more likely prediabetes is around the corner — or you already have it.
It’s important to talk to your primary care provider about screening for prediabetes. While it might be mentally easier to avoid finding out, knowing and taking action are very valuable to your long-term health.
The main complication of prediabetes is it developing into Type 2 diabetes. Undiagnosed or undermanaged Type 2 diabetes increases your risk of several complications, like:
While it’s possible to reverse prediabetes, it’s typically not possible to reverse diabetes complications. This is why prevention and/or proper management are key.
Healthcare providers rely on routine blood test screenings to check for prediabetes. If you have risk factors for prediabetes, your provider may recommend these screenings more often.
The following tests can check for prediabetes:
Your provider would diagnose you with prediabetes if your:
The best way to treat — and potentially reverse — prediabetes is through healthy lifestyle changes. Regularly eating nutritious foods and getting regular exercise can help return your blood sugar to healthy levels and prevent or delay Type 2 diabetes.
Even small changes can significantly lower your risk for developing Type 2 diabetes, like:
Lowering your risk factors for prediabetes can often get your blood sugar levels back to healthy levels. You might:
There are many programs available to help people live healthy lives and reverse prediabetes. To find a plan that works for you, talk to your provider or find resources through the National Diabetes Prevention Program.
In some cases, your healthcare provider may recommend taking certain oral diabetes medications. This is more likely if lifestyle changes haven’t helped improve your blood sugar levels and/or you have multiple risk factors for Type 2 diabetes.
The strategies for preventing prediabetes are the same as for reversing it and preventing Type 2 diabetes:
Unfortunately, some people have such strong genetic risk factors that even lifestyle changes aren’t enough to prevent developing prediabetes.
If you receive a prediabetes diagnosis, you’ll need to make lifestyle changes to manage or reverse it. This can be overwhelming. But taking it one step at a time can lead you closer to better health.
Without taking action, many people with prediabetes eventually develop Type 2 diabetes. This is often because people don’t know they have prediabetes.
Aside from following your healthcare team’s medical guidance for treating prediabetes, there are other things you can do to help make life with prediabetes a little easier, including:
It’s also important to remember:
If you still develop prediabetes or Type 2 diabetes despite making healthy changes, try not to be hard on yourself. Type 2 diabetes isn’t a disease of a lack of willpower. It involves many complex mechanisms. And the healthy changes you’ve made are still helping protect your health.
It’s important to see your healthcare provider regularly if you have prediabetes or are at increased risk for it. Even if your management plan is currently working, your needs and body may change. So, it’s important to check in with your provider consistently. They’ll let you know how frequently to have appointments.
It can be helpful to ask these questions:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
When it comes to prediabetes, knowledge is power. This includes knowing if you have prediabetes and knowing how to make changes to reverse or curb it. While it may be overwhelming to receive this diagnosis, know that your healthcare team will be beside you every step of the way to guide you toward healthy changes.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 11/08/2023.
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