What is prediabetes and why does it matter?

Knowing what prediabetes is, and the risk factors involved, can help prevent or delay the development of type 2 diabetes.

Various medical equipment used to manage diabetes.

Do you have a strong family history of diabetes? Do you have high blood pressure? Are you inactive? Did you have diabetes during pregnancy? Are you overweight or obese?

If you said "yes" to any of these questions, you may be at risk for having prediabetes. Prediabetes is a precursor for developing type 2 diabetes (T2D) at some time during your life. T2D is concerning because it can lead to many other health issues, including heart disease, kidney disease, vision loss and nerve damage, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). T2D can take many years to develop, which can make it hard to detect.

The possibility of developing T2D is frightening for a person who is at risk for, or has been diagnosed with, prediabetes. The good news is that T2D can be prevented or delayed with the incorporation of lifestyle changes such as diet, exercise and medication.

As stated by the CDC: “Prediabetes is a serious health condition where blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not high enough yet to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes. Approximately 88 million American adults — more than 1 in 3 — have prediabetes. Of those with prediabetes, more than 84% don’t know they have it.” While prediabetes is the warning sign for potentially developing type 2 diabetes in the future, it can be treated and T2D delayed or avoided.

Tips to delaying the onset of and preventing T2D:

  • Know your family history and discuss your concerns with your doctor.
  • Have blood glucose levels checked, either orally or through fasting testing.
  • Track your food and drink intake daily.
  • Eat foods that are lower in fat.
  • Choose an evidence-based program designed to help prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes.
  • Be physically active every day. Short bouts of exercise go a long way to make changes in your health.

T2D is a serious disease, but there are ways to delay or prevent the disease from becoming chronic. Now is the time to begin to make some lifestyle changes. Small healthy steps can make a big difference when it comes to your health. Learn more about how to prevent, delay or manager diabetes with programs from Michigan State University Extension.

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