Prediabetes is a condition that precedes the onset of type 2 diabetes. It is characterized by blood glucose levels that are elevated, though not high enough to be classified as diabetes. Doctors usually refer to prediabetes as impaired glucose tolerance or impaired fasting glucose.
Diabetes develops very gradually, so when you’re in the prediabetes stage—when your blood glucose level is higher than it should be—you may not have any symptoms at all. You may, however, notice that:
- you’re hungrier than normal
- you’re losing weight, despite eating more
- you’re thirstier than normal
- you have to go to the bathroom more frequently
- you’re more tired than usual
All of those are typical symptoms associated with diabetes, so if you’re in the early stages of diabetes, you may notice them. Causes and Risk Factors Prediabetes develops when your body begins to have trouble using the hormone insulin. Insulin is necessary to transport glucose—what your body uses for energy—into the cells via the bloodstream. In pre-diabetes, your body either doesn’t make enough insulin or it doesn’t use it well (that’s called insulin resistance). If you don’t have enough insulin or if you’re insulin resistant, you can build up too much glucose in your blood, leading to a higher-than-normal blood glucose level and perhaps prediabetes. Researchers aren’t sure what exactly causes the insulin process to go awry in some people. There are several risk factors, though, that make it more likely that you’ll develop pre-diabetes. These are the same risk factors related to the development of type 2 diabetes:
- Weight: If you’re overweight (have a body mass index—a BMI—of higher than 25), you’re at a high risk for developing prediabetes. Especially if you carry a lot of extra weight in your abdomen, you may develop prediabetes. The extra fat cells can cause your body to become more insulin resistant.
- Lack of physical activity: This often goes hand-in-hand with being overweight. If you aren’t physically active, you’re more likely to develop prediabetes.
- Family history: Prediabetes has a hereditary factor. If someone in your close family has (or had) it, you are more likely to develop it.
- Race/ethnicity: Certain ethnic groups are more likely to develop prediabetes, including African-Americans, Hispanic Americans, Native Americans, and Asian Americans.
- Age: The older you are, the more at risk you are for developing prediabetes. At age 45, your risk starts to rise, and after age 65, your risk increases exponentially.
- Gestational diabetes: If you developed diabetes while you were pregnant, that increases your risk for developing prediabetes later on.
- Other health problems: High blood pressure (hypertension) and high cholesterol (the “bad” LDL cholesterol) increase your risk of getting type 2 diabetes.
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