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Know Your Risk, Lower Your Risk
Developing Type 2 Diabetes

The Surprising Truth About Prediabetes

A group of diverse peopleIt’s real. It’s common. And most importantly, it’s reversible. You can stop prediabetes from developing into type 2 diabetes with simple, proven lifestyle changes.

Amazing but true: 86 million American adults—more than 1 out of 3—have prediabetes. What’s more, 90% 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 where blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not high enough yet to be diagnosed as diabetes. Prediabetes puts people at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. Without weight loss and moderate physical activity, 15%-30% of people with prediabetes will go on to have type 2 diabetes within 5 years.

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 caused by an immune reaction and can't yet be prevented.
  • Type 2 is a gradual disease that develops over many years; type 1 often starts quickly and has severe symptoms.
  • People with type 1 diabetes must use insulin every day to survive.
  • Type 1 occurs most often in children, teens, and young adults.
  • Type 2 occurs most often in older people (though increasingly children, teens, and young adults are developing the disease).
  • Prediabetes can develop into type 2 diabetes, but not type 1.

Learn more about different diabetes types and treatments.

Prediabetes Flies Under the Radar

People can have prediabetes for years but have no clear symptoms, so it often goes undetected until serious health problems show up. That’s why it’s important to talk to your doctor about getting your blood sugar tested if you have any of the risk factors for prediabetes, which include:

  • Being overweight
  • Being 45 years or older
  • Having a parent or sibling 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 that 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 prediabetes quiz and be sure to share the results with your doctor.

Diabetes Is Harder to Live with Than Prediabetes

Though people with prediabetes are already at a higher risk of heart disease and stroke, they don't yet have to manage the serious health problems that come with diabetes.

Diabetes affects every major organ in the body. People with diabetes often develop significant complications, such as kidney failure, blindness, and nerve damage, which can lead to amputation of a toe, foot, or leg. Some studies suggest that diabetes doubles the risk of depression, and that risk increases as more diabetes-related health problems develop. All can sharply reduce quality of life.

Man eating salad

Recipe for prevention: healthy eating and physical activity.

Prediabetes = Preventdiabetes

Think of prediabetes as a fork in the road: Ignore it, and 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 has been proven to help people make lifestyle changes that can 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're told you have prediabetes, ask your doctor or nurse if there is a National Diabetes Prevention Program offered in your community. The best time to prevent type 2 diabetes is now.

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Last Reviewed: Oct 18, 2013

NetWellness Staff