Do you know someone with type 2 diabetes? With over 29 million affected Americans, you probably know a person or two. Adding to the numbers, another 1.5 million people are diagnosed each year – and the numbers keep on rising.
But a person doesn’t become a diabetic overnight. First comes prediabetes, a condition that doubles as a warning sign. In fact, a higher number of Americans have it! Prediabetes affects about 84 million adults, with 90% not even aware of the predicament.1 Yet, the focus goes straight to type 2, explaining why so many people don’t know about prediabetes. By preventing prediabetes first, you can avoid a problem before it even begins.
What Is Prediabetes?
Prediabetes is exactly what it sounds like: the condition that comes before type 2 diabetes. Here, blood sugar levels are high but not high enough to count as type 2 diabetes. It also significantly increases the risk of diabetes. Basically, it’s your body telling you that something needs to change. If left untreated, prediabetes can graduate to full-blown diabetes.2
How Is Prediabetes Diagnosed?
Type 2 diabetes is diagnosed with three blood tests:
The A1C test measures average blood sugar over the past 2 to 3 months.
- Normal: Below 5.7%
- Prediabetes: 5.7–6.4%
- Type 2 diabetes: 6.5% or higher
2. Fasting Blood Sugar Test
This test measures blood sugar right after a night of fasting.
- Normal: 99 mg/dL or below
- Prediabetes: 100 to 125 mg/dL
- Type 2 diabetes: 126 mg/dL or above
3. Glucose Tolerance Test
After an overnight fast, you’ll drink a liquid with glucose. This test measures blood sugar before and after.3
- Normal: 140 mg/dL or below
- Prediabetes: 140 to 199 mg/dL
- Type 2 diabetes: 200 mg/dL or above
Symptoms And Risks Of Prediabetes
Prediabetes is hard to diagnose because it doesn’t have any clear symptoms. Often, it only gets diagnosed when it’s causing problems related to type 2 diabetes. Regular blood work can also find it early. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, major risk factors include the following:
- Overweight or obesity
- Aged 45 years or older
- An immediate relative with type 2 diabetes
- Exercising less than 3 times a week
- A history of gestational diabetes
- A history of polycystic ovary syndrome
- African American, Hispanic/Latino, American Indian, Pacific Islander, or Asian ethnicity4
How To Prevent Prediabetes
You can’t change age or genetics, but you can change the way you live. These lifestyle habits will prevent (or at least delay) type 2 diabetes.
1. Eat Well
Diet is one of the most modifiable factors that influence diabetes. It’s powerful enough to control weight loss, blood glucose, and insulin resistance. So, fuel up on fruits, veggies, and whole grains. Focus on fiber and healthy fats, like omega-3’s in avocado. Reach for lean protein such as skinless chicken and beans.
Eat less processed meat, sugary sodas, and refined grains. These foods increase type 2 diabetes risk, so cutting them out is a smart choice.5 Such a diet will take some getting used to, but it will be worth it.
2. Exercise More Often
Almost 90% of type 2 diabetes patients develop the disease because of excess weight.6 However, physical activity promotes weight loss and keeps diabetes at bay. Even just losing 5–7% of your body weight will help!
Start small if you have a sedentary lifestyle. Aim for 30-minute walks once a week, even if it’s just around the block. After a few weeks, increase the frequency to twice a week and slowly work your way up to five.7
3. Quit Smoking
Compared to non-smokers, smokers are 30–40% more likely to develop type 2 diabetes. What more if you have prediabetes, too? Smoking messes with the way your body controls blood glucose. Specifically, nicotine makes insulin less effective. The habit also increases inflammation, oxidative stress, and belly fat.
Diabetic smokers should be extra careful. Smoking increases the risk of other diseases, like blindness and nerve damage.8 And quitting is the best thing you can do.
Having prediabetes isn’t the end of the world. But with these lifestyle tips, you can avoid diabetes before it becomes a problem.
|↑1, ↑5, ↑6||Wu, Yanling, Yanping Ding, Yoshimasa Tanaka, and Wen Zhang. “Risk factors contributing to type 2 diabetes and recent advances in the treatment and prevention.” International journal of medical sciences 11, no. 11 (2014): 1185.|
|↑2, ↑4, ↑7||Prediabetes. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.|
|↑3||Getting Tested. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.|
|↑8||Smoking and Diabetes. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.|