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Pre-diabetes

Diabetes is a condition that occurs when the body cannot maintain healthy levels of sugar (glucose) in the blood. Pre-diabetes refers to when blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be called diabetes. If you have pre-diabetes, it means you are at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes than if you had normal glucose levels.

Who is at risk of pre-diabetes?

The risk factors for pre-diabetes are the same as those for type 2 diabetes. They include:

  • being overweight
  • having an inactive lifestyle
  • having low HDL (good) cholesterol and high triglycerides
  • having high blood pressure
  • having a family history of type 2 diabetes or heart disease.

Pre-diabetes diagnosis

If you have pre-diabetes, you have either one or both of these conditions:

  • impaired glucose tolerance – your blood glucose level is above normal but not high enough to be called diabetes
  • impaired fasting glucose – your fasting blood glucose level is above normal but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes.

Both of these pre-diabetes conditions are diagnosed through an oral glucose tolerance test. This test involves measuring your blood glucose after you have fasted (not eaten for 8 hours) and then 2 hours after you are given a sugary drink.

Pre-diabetes management

If you have pre-diabetes, this does not mean you will necessarily develop type 2 diabetes. However, you will have a higher risk of doing so than if you had normal glucose levels.

Pre-diabetes is usually managed by making the same healthy lifestyle changes you should make if you had type 2 diabetes. These include healthy eating, regular physical activity and, if necessary, losing weight.

As pre-diabetes also increases the risk of heart disease, controlling your blood pressure as well as cholesterol and triglyceride levels are important.

Having an annual health check, including screening for type 2 diabetes, is also important.

Last reviewed: March 2017

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