What Is Prediabetes? Key Facts You Need to Know

A prediabetes diagnosis is actually an opportunity to take action.

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Hearing from your doctor that you’re prediabetic may come as a shock, but it doesn’t mean you’re doomed to get diabetes. In fact, doctors see prediabetes as an opportunity to make lifestyle changes and prevent type 2 diabetes from developing.

Prediabetes is a condition when your blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but they’re not quite at the level of someone with type 2 diabetes. It means you’re at a high risk to develop type 2 diabetes within the next 10 years—unless you take the steps to prevent it. (Find out more about blood sugar and insulin resistance here.)

There are two numbers that doctors may look at to determine if you have prediabetes: hemoglobin A1C and fasting blood glucose. Someone with prediabetes will have an A1C between 5.7 and 6.4 percent and a fasting blood glucose between 100 and 125.

Risk factors for prediabetes are similar to risk factors for type 2 diabetes: older age, a family history of diabetes, ethnicity, a history of gestational diabetes, and a history of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). A sedentary lifestyle and being overweight or obese also increases your risk.

“Prediabetes is definitely reversible,” says endocrinologist Sonal Chaudhry, MD. “With changes in diet, exercise, and weight loss, insulin sensitivity improves, blood sugars come down, and prediabetes can go back down to a normal range.”

To prevent and treat prediabetes, doctors recommend 30 minutes of moderate exercise, like walking, every day. Losing just five to 10 percent of your body weight can improve blood sugars, cholesterol, and blood pressure, which can make developing diabetes less likely.

Eating a healthy diet—one full of fruits, veggies, legumes, lean proteins, healthy fats, and whole grains—also helps stabilize blood glucose levels and prevent the development of type 2 diabetes. Learn what a healthy diabetic diet looks like here.