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What Does It Really Mean to Have Prediabetes?

Type 2 diabetes often happens due to genetics and lifestyle. It is when a person has high levels of blood sugar, known as glucose. The body makes glucose from the food we eat. It is the main source of energy for our cells. Type 2 diabetes is triggered when the body is no longer able to use insulin well. This is the hormone that helps cells take in glucose from the blood. Nerves and blood vessels can be harmed when glucose stays in the blood instead of moving into the cells. This raises the risk of health problems, such as stroke, blindness, and blood flow problems.

About Prediabetes

HCA image This health problem happens before type 2 diabetes. It means that glucose levels that are high, but not high enough to be called diabetes. Having prediabetes means that a person is at higher risk for getting diabetes.

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) advises screening for all adults 45 years old and older. People who are younger than 45 and are overweight and have these risk factors should also be screened:

How It Is Tested

A doctor uses these tests to find out if a person has prediabetes:

How It Is Managed

A person with prediabetes can take steps to manage it, such as reaching a healthy weight. Lowering body weight by 5% to 10% can help. Exercising at least 30 minutes a day will also help a person stay on track. Some people can take medicine to manage their blood glucose levels, but lifestyle changes should be the first thing that a person tries.

How to Prevent It

These methods used to prevent type 2 diabetes can also be used to prevent prediabetes:

A person with prediabetes can take steps to slow or avoid getting type 2 diabetes. It will depend on the effort a person puts in, but the health benefits are worth it.


American Diabetes Association

National Diabetes Education Program


Canadian Diabetes Association

The College of Family Physicians of Canada


American Diabetes Association. Standards of medical care in diabetes - 2020. Diabetes Care. 2020 Jan; 43 (Suppl 1):S1-S212.

Diabetes mellitus type 2 prevention. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:https://www.dynamed.com/prevention/diabetes-mellitus-type-2-prevention. Accessed August 25, 2020.

Prediabetes. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:https://www.dynamed.com/condition/prediabetes. Accessed August 25, 2020.

Risk factors for type 2 diabetes. National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse website. Available at: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/overview/risk-factors-type-2-diabetes. Accessed August 25, 2020.

With prediabetes, action is the best medicine. American Diabetes Association website. Available at: https://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-risk/prediabetes. Accessed August 25, 2020.

Last reviewed March 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review BoardDianne Scheinberg Rishikof MS, RD, LDN  Last Updated: 3/2/2021