Prediabetes is a condition in which blood sugar levels are high but are not high enough to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes. People with prediabetes are at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, so it is essential to take action to prevent or delay the onset of these conditions.
The good news is that treating prediabetes can delay or prevent the onset of diabetes – and losing weight is one of the best ways to treat prediabetes. If you have prediabetes, you should work toward losing 5% to 7%of your total body weight if possible.
What is Prediabetes?
Prediabetes is a condition when blood sugar, or glucose, levels are higher than usual but not high enough to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes. Prediabetes is also known as impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) or impaired fasting glucose (IFG).
The blood sugar level of someone with prediabetes is higher than usual but not yet high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes. If left untreated, prediabetes may develop into type 2 diabetes within a few years.
Why Prediabetes Develops
Prediabetes develops when your body stops producing enough insulin or becomes resistant to its effects. Since the hormone helps regulate blood glucose levels by moving sugar into cells when it is not working correctly, or there is not enough of it around – as in prediabetes – sugar builds up in the blood instead of being used by cells as energy they need to function normally. Prediabetes can develop for a variety of reasons, including:
- Age Your risk of prediabetes increases as you get older. It is estimated that about 25% of people over age 65 have prediabetes.
- Race and ethnicity Prediabetes is more common in African Americans and Hispanics than in Caucasians.
- Obesity Excess weight around your middle can increase your risk of prediabetes by up to 80%. Obese people have much higher blood sugar levels than their lean counterparts, even if their body mass index (BMI) falls within the normal range (18.5-24).
- Inactivity and poor diet choices Physical activity helps prevent weight gain and improves insulin sensitivity, which helps keep blood sugar levels under control.
The Warning Signs of Prediabetes
The warning signs of prediabetes are like those for diabetes, but they are not as severe. The main warning sign is high blood glucose levels above average but not yet high enough to be called diabetes.
If you have prediabetes, you will often have some of the following symptoms:
- Increased Thirst
Increased thirst is a sign of diabetes, but it is also a symptom of many other conditions.
You may feel thirsty if you are hot or exercising. If you have diabetes, however, you will also feel thirsty even when you are not hot or exercising.
As the body becomes less able to process sugars through the kidneys, glucose builds up in the blood. This triggers the release of hormones that make you feel thirsty so that you will drink more liquids and flush out excess sugar from your system. Having an increased thirst is one of the earliest warning signs of diabetes.
The best way to determine if your increased thirst is caused by diabetes is to check your blood sugar levels with a blood test called hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c).
- Fatigue (Tiredness)
Fatigue (tiredness) is a common symptom of prediabetes. People with prediabetes may feel tired even after sleeping 8 hours or more, having difficulty falling asleep.
Some people with prediabetes also have trouble concentrating and remembering things, mood swings, depression, irritability, and other mental health issues. Fatigue (tiredness) signs of prediabetes include:
- Tough time getting out of bed in the morning.
- Needing a nap during the day
- Feeling sleepy during the day, even after sleeping at night.
- Trouble concentrating
- Frequent Urination
Frequent urination is a common sign of prediabetes, but other conditions may cause it. If you have frequent urination, especially at night, it is essential to see your doctor to ensure there is nothing wrong.
Frequent urination means you must go to the bathroom more often than usual. The frequency of urination can vary from person to person, but if it is excessive, it could be a sign of a severe condition like diabetes or kidney disease.
Frequent urination is common in people who have diabetes because the kidneys do not work as well as they should. When blood glucose levels are high, the kidneys lose some of their ability to reabsorb water from urine, which causes extra fluid in your system and increases the frequency you need to urinate.
- Weight Gain or Loose
Weight gain is a common symptom of prediabetes. If you put on more than five pounds in the last six months, you should see your doctor for more testing to determine whether you have prediabetes.
If you are overweight, losing weight can help lower your blood sugar levels and reduce your risk of developing diabetes. Work with your doctor to develop an eating plan that is right for you. Healthy eating habits can also help prevent or delay type 2 diabetes in people at risk for the disease.
- Blurred Vision
Blurred vision is a common sign of prediabetes, and it is caused by damage to the blood vessels that supply blood to the retina, a part of the eye that senses light and sends information to the brain.
The retina has a lot of blood vessels that are fragile and easily damaged. Blurred vision can be caused by several conditions, including prediabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and kidney disease.
In people with prediabetes, these changes in the retina appear to happen more quickly than they do in people who do not have prediabetes.
How to Reverse Prediabetes
The good news is that you can reverse prediabetes with lifestyle changes such as losing weight, getting more exercise, and eating healthfully.
Here are some simple ways to reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes:
- Lose weight if you are overweight or obese — even just 5% of your total body weight can make a difference.
- Eat healthier foods; limit yourself to 10% of calories from saturated fat (found in animal products such as meat, poultry, and full-fat dairy products) and trans fats (found in processed foods like cookies).
- Get more physical activity: Aim for 150 minutes of moderate exercise (brisk walking) each week. Or try to get 30 minutes of moderate exercise five days a week if it is easier for you. And do not forget about muscle-strengthening activities at least two times a week and regular physical activity that can be done anytime, anywhere — like taking the stairs instead of the escalator or riding your bicycle to work.