According to the American Diabetes Association, an estimated 86 million Americans age 20 and older have pre-diabetes. "If you've been diagnosed with pre-diabetes, it means your blood sugar levels are not high enough to be classified as Type 2 diabetes but are high enough to indicate a need for change," says Anne Bauch, registered dietitian at Mayo Clinic Health System.
A normal fasting blood sugar level is below 100, whereas a level of someone with pre-diabetes is between 100 and 126. Once levels have surpassed 126, it is classified as Type 2 diabetes, which indicates that your body resists insulin or doesn't produce enough of it to maintain normal blood sugar levels.
"When you have pre-diabetes, sugar begins to build up in the blood stream rather than fuel your cells. This is when insulin resistance occurs, which is believed to be the No. 1 cause of pre-diabetes," adds Brauch.
A healthy weight allows insulin to work more efficiently and to keep blood sugars within a normal range. A healthy diet and regular exercise are the best ways to bring your blood sugar levels back to normal.
What are the risk factors for developing pre-diabetes?
Body mass index (BMI) greater than 27
Family history of diabetes
Age 45 or older
Carrying weight in your abdomen
Previous diagnosis of gestational diabetes (developed while pregnant)
When should I be tested? If you're 45 or older, you should have your fasting blood sugar checked every year during your physical. If you've had gestational diabetes, it is important to have your blood sugar checked each year, as there is a 60 percent chance of developing Type 2 diabetes.
Are there any symptoms?
Often, people do not know they have pre-diabetes because they do not experience any symptoms. However, Type 2 diabetes symptoms may include:
What's my next step?
"After diagnosis, a referral to a diabetes educator can be initiated to begin a carbohydrate control meal plan along with an exercise routine. Diabetes educators teach lifestyle skills to manage pre-diabetes and Type 2 diabetes. We help patients with meal planning, exercise, medication management and monitoring blood sugars," says Brauch.
Talk to your health care provider if you have any questions or concerns about diabetes or if you develop any Type 2 diabetes symptoms.