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Prediabetes

Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on Feb 6, 2023.

What is prediabetes?

Prediabetes is a blood glucose (sugar) level that is higher than normal. It is not high enough to be considered diabetes. Prediabetes increases your risk for type 2 diabetes and heart disease. The risk is highest if you have high blood pressure or high cholesterol.

What increases my risk for prediabetes?

  • Being overweight or obese, with a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or higher (23 or higher if you are Asian American)
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Older age
  • Family history of diabetes (parent or sibling)
  • A history of heart disease, gestational diabetes, or polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
  • High blood pressure or cholesterol levels
  • Being African American, Latino, Native American, Asian American, or Pacific Islander
  • In children, having a mother with diabetes or gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) during the pregnancy

What are the signs and symptoms of prediabetes?

Prediabetes may not cause any symptoms.

How is prediabetes diagnosed?

Blood tests can help diagnose prediabetes even if no signs or symptoms have started. This is also called screening. Adults who are overweight or obese are usually tested every 3 years, starting at age 35. Your healthcare provider may recommend screening starting at an earlier or later age, depending on your overall risk for diabetes. Children who are at risk for diabetes may be tested. The following may be used to diagnose prediabetes:

  • A fasting plasma glucose test may be done to check your blood sugar level after you have not eaten for 8 hours.
  • A 2-hour plasma glucose test starts with a blood sugar level check after you have not eaten for 8 hours. You are then given a glucose drink. Your blood sugar level is checked after 2 hours.
  • A hemoglobin A1c is a blood test that measures your average blood sugar level for the past 2 to 3 months. An A1c of 5.7% to 6.4% means you have prediabetes.

How do I prevent or delay type 2 diabetes?

Healthy choices work best to delay or prevent type 2 diabetes. You may be given the following guidelines from your healthcare provider:

  • Get regular physical activity. Adults should get at least 150 minutes (2.5 hours) of moderate physical activity every week. Spread the amount of activity over at least 3 days a week. Do not skip more than 2 days in a row. Children should get at least 60 minutes of moderate physical activity on most days of the week. Examples of moderate physical activity include brisk walking, running, and swimming. Do not sit for longer than 30 minutes at a time. Work with your healthcare provider to create a plan for physical activity.
    Black Family Walking for Exercise
  • Lose weight if you are overweight. A weight loss of 7% of your body weight can help. Your healthcare provider can tell you what weight is healthy for you. He or she can help you create a weight loss plan.
  • Eat healthy foods. Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables. Eat whole-grain foods more often. Choose dairy foods, meat, and other protein foods that are low in fat. Eat fewer sweets, such as candy, cookies, regular soda, and sweetened drinks. You can also decrease calories by eating smaller portion sizes. Work with your healthcare provider or dietitian to develop a meal plan that is right for you.
    Healthy Foods
  • Take medicine as directed. Your healthcare provider may give diabetes medicine if you are at high risk for diabetes. You may also need medicines for high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
  • Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed. You will need to return every year to get tested for diabetes.
  • Do not smoke. Do not use e-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco in place of cigarettes or to help you quit. They still contain nicotine. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help quitting.
  • Start with small goals and work your way up. You may need to start with 3 days of physical activity. You can add a day after 3 weeks or so of activity. Make a goal of losing 5 pounds at first. Talk with healthcare providers about making a plan that is right for you.

When should I call my doctor?

  • You have more hunger or thirst than usual.
  • You are urinating more often than usual.
  • You are always exhausted.
  • You have blurred vision.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

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