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Prediabetes: What you need to know

Updated: Jul 2, 2019

A person with prediabetes has levels of blood sugar that are higher than normal, but the levels of blood glucose (sugar) are not quite high enough or consistent to be formally diagnosed as diabetes.

Prediabetes is a very early form of diabetes. The first thing you should know about prediabetes is that it does not have to lead to full blown type 2 diabetes.

According to an article by Mayo clinic, the same factors that increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes increase the risk of developing prediabetes. These factors include:

  • Weight. Being overweight is a primary risk factor for prediabetes

  • Waist size. A large waist size can indicate insulin resistance. The risk of insulin resistance goes up for men with waists larger than 40 inches and for women with waists larger than 35 inches

  • Dietary patterns. Eating red meat and processed meat, and drinking sugar-sweetened beverages, is associated with a higher risk of prediabetes

  • Inactivity. The less active you are, the greater your risk of prediabetes

  • Age. Although diabetes can develop at any age, the risk of prediabetes increases after age 45

  • Family history. Your risk of prediabetes increases if you have a parent or sibling with type 2 diabetes

  • Race. Although it's unclear why, people of certain races — including African-Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders — are more likely to develop prediabetes

  • Gestational diabetes. If you developed gestational diabetes while pregnant, you and your child are at higher risk of developing prediabetes. If you gave birth to a baby who weighed more than 9 pounds (4.1 kilograms), you're also at increased risk of prediabetes

  • Polycystic ovary syndrome. This common condition — characterized by irregular menstrual periods, excess hair growth and obesity — increases women's risk of prediabetes

  • Sleep. People with a certain sleep disorder (obstructive sleep apnea) have an increased risk of insulin resistance. People who work changing shifts or night shifts, possibly causing sleep problems, also may have an increased risk of prediabetes or type 2 diabetes

The second thing you should know about prediabetes is that it can be reversed. You can do this by incorporating some dietary and lifestyle changes. These are significant changes, but not terribly difficult ones. Prediabetes can be reversed by losing weight by changing the way you eat, and by increasing your level of physical activity.

Here's what you can do to eat healthier:

  • Buy whole foods (whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables) as opposed to processed foods

  • Cook fresh food from scratch as much as possible—this helps preserve the nutrients

  • 90-95% of the carbohydrates you eat should be complex carbohydrates: Complex carbohydrates are found in whole, unprocessed foods such as whole grains, peas, lentils, beans, fruits and vegetables. A good rule of thumb to follow is “No white foods” – no white bread, white pasta or white rice. You should also avoid candies, cookies, cakes and other pastries

  • Increase the amount of fiber in your diet

  • Limit red meats and increase the amount of fish and skinless poultry

  • Increase the amount and variety of fruits and vegetables in your diet

Increasing your physical activity level just a relatively moderate amount can help reverse prediabetes. All you really have to do is to start walking more, climbing more stairs, doing more outdoor activities, gardening, yoga, or swimming.

To increase the level of your physical activity, take simple steps like parking at the far end of a parking lot or using the stairs instead of an elevator or escalator. Your goal should be 30 minutes of moderate activity (mixing the activities if you want) for at least 5 days a week. It is important to find some activity that you like and you can commit to. Try doing these activities with friends or a partner, and it could become an enjoyable routine.

But remember to start slowly and work your way into heavier activity. Don’t forget to stretch and warm up, especially if you are trying to jump right into it. You can also think about joining a gym and getting a personal trainer.

Finally, make sure you know and understand any physical conditions that may limit your activity. Talk to your doctor or nurse about the recommended amount and type of physical activity best suited to you.

Have questions about prediabetes? Feel free to post a comment and connect with me.


Healthcare Consultant, in4MED


The author of this blog post is a Physician with over 10 years of experience working in the healthcare system as a clinician, researcher and educator. She is passionate about healthcare for older adults and strives to be a resourceful inspiration to caregivers.

*No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare professional.

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