What is “pre-diabetes”, and what can you do about it?

Pre-diabetes is a condition where blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not yet elevated enough to be diagnosed as Type 2 diabetes (also called Adult Onset Diabetes). One in three American adults has pre-diabetes. Of those who have pre-diabetes, more than 80% don’t know they have it.

Having pre-diabetes puts patients at increased risk of developing diabetes, and at increased risk of heart disease, stroke, and other complications from diabetes.

How do you know if you have pre-diabetes? There is a laboratory test called A1C that helps make this diagnosis. Basically, if blood sugar (glucose) levels are consistently too high in our bloodstream, the glucose “sticks” to our red blood cells. The average red blood cell lives for about three months. So measuring A1C gives a 3 month “look back” at the average blood glucose reading.

A normal A1C is 5.6% or below. A level of 5.7 – 6.4% indicates pre-diabetes. A level of 6.5% or higher indicates diabetes.

What are risk factors for pre-diabetes?

*Being overweight

*Being 45 and older

*Having a parent, brother or sister with Type 2 diabetes

*Being physically active less than three times a week

How can A1C be reduced? This is important, because pre-diabetes can be reversed in many cases by lifestyle changes. Having an elevated A1C does not mean that a patient will automatically develop diabetes. To reduce A1C:

*Avoid refined carbohydrates such as sweet pastries and cakes, sugary beverages, and sweetened cereals.

*Exercise regularly

*Drink more water

Red blood cell with glucose “sticking” to it, measured by lab test A1C:


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