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Your Prediabetes Questions Answered

The more you know — beyond how it's 'not quite' diabetes — the better you can protect yourself

En español 

What is prediabetes?

Prediabetes is a condition where blood sugar levels are higher than they should be, but not yet high enough to be considered diabetes. Prediabetes can progress to type 2 diabetes, a disease in which body does not use insulin properly. One in three American adults has the condition, but the vast majority don’t know it. The good news? Prediabetes is often reversible, as discussed later in this article.

If it isn’t full-blown diabetes, why does it matter?

The “pre” may lead you to believe it isn’t serious, but prediabetes puts you at a higher risk for not only type 2 diabetes but also for heart disease and stroke. Taking steps now can reverse it or prevent it from becoming diabetes.  

How can I find out if I have prediabetes?

To see if you’re at risk for prediabetes, take this test (available in English and Spanish) from the American Diabetes Association (ADA). The only way to know for sure is to ask your health care provider to run a blood test. 

 

Mature African American woman deciding between eating an apple and a piece of cake.

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What are the symptoms?

Some people with prediabetes experience increased thirst, frequent urination, fatigue and blurred vision — these are the same signs of diabetes — but more often than not, there are no clear symptoms. That’s why it’s important to talk to your doctor about having your blood glucose tested if you have any of the following risk factors:

  • You’re overweight.
  • You’re 45 or older.
  • You have a parent, brother or sister with type 2 diabetes.
  • You lead a sedentary life.
  • You’ve had diabetes during pregnancy (gestational diabetes) or given birth to a baby that weighed more than 9 pounds.

Is prediabetes reversible?

Yes. A landmark study at the National Institutes of Health found that even modest lifestyle changes leading to a weight loss of 7 percent in overweight participants with prediabetes reduced their risk of type 2 diabetes by as much as 58 percent. 

What can I do today to help mitigate my risk?

  • Get moving – incorporate walking or other exercise into your daily routine.
    • Make your health a priority. View Get Moving Guides that make exercise easy, even for beginners.
    • Find an AARP FitLot to start an exercise program.
  • Eat healthy and nutritious meals that feed the mind and body. 
  • If you are overweight, even a little weight loss can help.
  • Take the prediabetes risk test, available in English and Spanish, to see if you or a family member are at risk.
  • Talk with your health care provider to run a blood glucose test that will tell you if you have prediabetes or not.

Where can I get support?

If you have prediabetes, a support group can help you make the necessary lifestyle changes to avoid progressing to diabetes. Not sure how to find one? The ADA organizes workshops geared to a variety of different groups. To find one near you, contact the ADA (800-DIABETES). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National Diabetes Prevention Program can also help you learn about healthy lifestyle changes — related to eating habits, exercise and more — shown to reverse prediabetes. The program is offered at YMCAs, community centers, churches and hospitals across the country. To find one near you, enter your zip code into the CDC’s program finder tool. While there are not many CDC programs covered by Medicare yet,  you may look for Medicare-covered classes near you by entering your zip code here.  You should always ask about coverage to make sure you are not charged any unexpected costs.    

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