The Surprising Truth About Prediabetes

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It’s real. It’s common. And most importantly, it’s reversible. You can prevent or delay prediabetes from turning into type 2 diabetes with simple, proven lifestyle changes.

Amazing but true: about 96 million American adults—1 in 3—have prediabetes. What’s more, more than 8 in 10 of people with prediabetes don’t know they have it. Could this be you? Read on to find out the facts and what you can do to stay healthy.

Prediabetes Is a Big Deal

Don’t let the “pre” fool you. Prediabetes is a serious health condition. People with prediabetes have higher blood sugar than normal, but not high enough yet for a diabetes diagnosis. Prediabetes puts you at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.

Prediabetes Flies Under the Radar

You can have prediabetes for years without symptoms. This means you likely won’t know you have prediabetes until serious health problems show up. Talk to your doctor about getting your blood sugar tested if you have any of the risk factors for prediabetes, including:

  • Being overweight
  • Being 45 years or older
  • Having a parent, brother, or sister with type 2 diabetes
  • Being physically active less than 3 times a week
  • Ever having gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy) or giving birth to a baby who weighed more than 9 pounds

Race and ethnicity are also a factor. African Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, American Indians, Pacific Islanders, and some Asian Americans are at higher risk.

Ready to find out your risk? Take the 1-minute prediabetes risk test and be sure to share the results with your doctor.

Diabetes Is Harder to Live With Than Prediabetes

People with prediabetes have a higher risk of heart disease and stroke. The risk of serious health problems increases even more for people with diabetes.

Diabetes affects every major organ in the body. People with diabetes often develop major complications, including kidney failure, blindness, and nerve damage. Nerve damage can lead to amputation (removal by surgery) of a toe, foot, or leg. Having diabetes can also double the risk of depression. That risk increases as more diabetes-related health problems develop. All can sharply reduce quality of life.

Prediabetes = Preventdiabetes

Think of prediabetes as a fork in the road. If you ignore it, your risk for type 2 diabetes goes up. Lose a modest amount of weight and get regular physical activity, and your risk goes down. Modest weight loss means 5% to 7% of body weight, just 10 to 14 pounds for a 200-pound person. Regular physical activity means getting at least 150 minutes a week of brisk walking or similar activity. That’s just 30 minutes a day, five days a week.

The CDC-led National Diabetes Prevention Program (National DPP) can help people make the lifestyle changes needed to prevent or delay type 2 diabetes. Through the program, participants:

  • Work with a trained coach to make lasting lifestyle changes.
  • Discover how to eat healthy and add more physical activity into their day.
  • Find out how to manage stress, stay motivated, and solve problems that can slow progress.

If you have prediabetes, ask your health care provider about the National DPP lifestyle change program. The best time to prevent type 2 diabetes is now.

Type 1 and Type 2: Not the Same

Many people don’t realize that type 1 and type 2 are different kinds of diabetes.

  • About 90%-95% of people with diabetes have type 2; about 5% have type 1.
  • Type 1 is thought to be caused by an immune reaction and can’t yet be prevented. Type 2 can be prevented or delayed through lifestyle changes.
  • Type 1 often starts quickly and has severe symptoms; type 2 is gradual and develops over many years.
  • Type 1 usually occurs in children, teens, and young adults. Type 2 occurs most often in older people, but is becoming more common in children, teens, and young adults.
  • People with type 1 must use insulin every day to survive.
  • Prediabetes can develop into type 2 diabetes, but not type 1.

Learn more about different diabetes types and treatments.

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Recipe for prevention: healthy eating and physical activity.

Page last reviewed: December 21, 2021