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Prediabetes occurs when you have a blood sugar level that is higher than normal. It often happens before you get type 2 diabetes. Being able to know the signs of prediabetes and making necessary lifestyle changes can help you avoid getting type 2 diabetes.

Causes and symptoms

Insulin is a hormone that your pancreas makes. Insulin helps sugar move from your blood to your cells. As the sugar enters your cells, the sugar levels in your blood begin to lower, and your pancreas makes less insulin. When you have prediabetes, insulin does not work as it should, and sugar can stay in your blood, which causes a high blood sugar.

patient and caregiver discussing prediabetes

We don’t know for sure what causes prediabetes. Some evidence suggests that genetics and family history play a role.1 Not getting enough exercise and being overweight may also put you at risk. You may also get prediabetes if you have had gestational diabetes (diabetes when you are pregnant).

Often you do not know you have prediabetes and you do not feel it. Some people who have prediabetes may have darkened skin on the neck, armpits, knees, or elbows. You are more likely to feel the prediabetes or symptoms when you get closer to having type 2 diabetes. You may feel fatigue (tired), more hungry or thirsty, have blurred vision, and have to urinate (pee) more.

Prevention is possible

Fortunately, you can help prevent prediabetes from becoming type 2 diabetes by making lifestyle changes. These lifestyle changes are important:

  • Avoid smoking. Smokers can carry more weight around the abdomen and smoking can increase insulin resistance (when insulin cannot get sugar out of the blood).
  • Get better sleep. Obstructive sleep apnea, which can wake you up repeatedly during the night, may lead to insulin resistance.
  • Exercise. Be physically active for 30 minutes a day, five days a week. This can help you control your weight.
  • Eat healthy. Try to avoid eating processed meat and sweetened beverages. Add more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to your diet.
  • Manage your stress. Too much stress can get in the way of you exercising or eating healthy, putting you at risk for prediabetes and other health issues.

If you think you may have prediabetes, talk to your doctor. A simple blood sugar test can tell you if you have prediabetes. Then you and your care team will know how to best take care of you.

1. Prediabetes. The Mayo Clinic Page. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/prediabetes/symptoms-causes/syc-20355278. Accessed 8SEP2021

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