Prediabetes is a condition that can lead to type 2 diabetes and heart disease. When you have prediabetes, your blood glucose (sugar) levels are higher than normal but are not high enough to be called diabetes. Diabetes can lead to many health problems, so it's better to prevent it in the first place. You can take steps to prevent or delay type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

You are likely to develop prediabetes when you have certain risk factors. Your chances of having prediabetes go up if you:

  • are age 45 or older

  • are African American, Hispanic/Latino, American Indian, Asian American, or Pacific Islander

  • have a parent, brother, or sister with diabetes

  • are overweight

  • are physically inactive

  • have high blood pressure or if you take medicine for high blood pressure

  • have low HDL cholesterol and/or high triglycerides

  • are a woman who had diabetes during pregnancy

  • have been diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

REAL-LIFE STORIES FROM PEOPLE WITH PREDIABETES

I had my blood glucose level checked last year and was shocked to find out I had prediabetes. I was a little overweight then. And I hadn't been exercising because I was busy working and taking care of the kids. But it really scared me to learn I was at risk for type 2 diabetes. I cut back on sweets and ate veggies and fruit instead. I also bought a pedometer—a step counter. When I first started, my goal was 7,500 steps every day. Then after a couple of months I changed my goal to 10,000 steps, 5 days a week. I lost 15 pounds! I feel much better now. Today I found out my blood glucose level is back to normal. I feel good about what I've done for my health.

—JULIA B., age 49, diagnosed with prediabetes last year

You don't have to make big changes. Small steps can add up to big results. Your health care team can help you make a plan. Talk about ways to be active, such as:

  • walking briskly for at least 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week

  • being more active throughout the day by parking further from the store or taking the stairs

Make a plan to eat less fat and fewer calories. You can meet with a dietitian to talk about what to eat and how to lose weight. You might try:

  • starting each dinner with a salad of leafy greens. Salad provides nutrients and fills you up. Then you might eat less of any high-calorie foods that might come later.

  • switching from regular soda and juice to no-calorie water

If you're at very high risk for diabetes, your health care provider might give you a medicine to help prevent or delay diabetes. For most people, eating less, being more active, and losing weight work better than taking medicines.

If you have been told you have prediabetes, have your blood glucose levels checked every year. Your health care provider may want to check your glucose levels more often, especially if you're taking a medicine for prediabetes.

When you have prediabetes, your health care provider should also check for signs of heart disease and blood vessel problems. For example, your health care provider might check your blood pressure and your cholesterol. Talk with your health care team about what to do if your blood pressure or cholesterol levels are too high. Making wise food choices, staying active, and taking medicines (if needed) can help you stay healthy.

Having prediabetes is your early warning system. Take action now and avoid the problems that diabetes and heart disease could bring. Small steps can make a big difference in your health. Choose two or three small steps today.

This handout was published in Clinical Diabetes, Vol. 35, issue 2, 2017, and was adapted from the American Diabetes Association's “Diabetes Advisor.” Visit the Association's Patient Education Library at http://professional.diabetes.org/PatientEd for hundreds of free, downloadable handouts in English and Spanish with some materials available in eight additional languages. Distribute these to your patients and share them with others on your health care team. Copyright American Diabetes Association, Inc., 2017.