What is prediabetes?

Prediabetes means your blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes. Prediabetes usually occurs in people who already have some insulin resistance or whose insulin producing cells in the pancreas aren’t making enough insulin to keep blood glucose in the normal range. Without enough insulin, extra glucose stays in your bloodstream rather than entering your cells. Over time, you could develop type 2 diabetes.

What is insulin resistance?

Insulin resistance is when cells in your muscles, fat, and liver don’t respond well to insulin and can’t easily take up glucose from your blood. As a result, your pancreas makes more insulin to help glucose enter your cells. As long as your pancreas can make enough insulin to overcome your cells’ weak response to insulin, your blood glucose levels will stay in the healthy range.

Who is more likely to develop insulin resistance or prediabetes?

People who have genetic or lifestyle risk factors are more likely to develop insulin resistance or prediabetes. Risk factors include:

  • overweight or obesity
  • age 45 or older
  • a parent, brother, or sister with diabetes
  • African American, Alaska Native, American Indian, Asian American, Hispanic/Latino, Native Hawaiian, or Pacific Islander American ethnicity
  • physical inactivity
  • health conditions such as high blood pressure and abnormal cholesterol levels
  • a history of gestational diabetes
  • a history of heart disease or stroke
  • polycystic ovary syndrome, also called PCOS

People who have metabolic syndrome—a combination of high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol levels, and large waist size—are more likely to have prediabetes. Along with these risk factors, other things that may contribute to insulin resistance include certain medicines, such as glucocorticoids, some antipsychotics, and some medicines for HIV, hormonal disorders, such as Cushing’s Syndrome and acromegaly, sleep problems, especially sleep apnea.

While you can’t change some of these risk factors like age and ethnicity, you can change lifestyle risk factors that can lower your chances of developing insulin resistance or prediabetes. By improving your diet, incorporating regular exercise, and losing weight can help your blood glucose levels considerably and help to reverse insulin resistance.

Please remember this information is intended for educational purposes only and should not substitute medical advice from a healthcare provider.