Pre-diabetes occurs when the amount of glucose (sugar) in your blood is higher than normal. Insulin is the hormone that usually controls your blood sugars, keeping them in the healthy range. Sometimes people stop making enough insulin, or it does not work well enough, to control their blood glucose levels. This is called pre-diabetes.
People with pre-diabetes are at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease. However, if you follow a healthy lifestyle at this stage, you have a chance to delay or prevent the future development of type 2 diabetes.
People who are overweight or who have obesity are at higher risk of developing pre-diabetes. This is due to excess energy (from food and drinks) being stored as fat around your body’s organs and tissues. Over time, these fatty deposits can damage key organs, such as your pancreas, and lead to your body’s cells becoming less sensitive to insulin. This leads to your blood sugars rising, causing pre-diabetes.
Early signs of regular high blood sugar levels can include:
If you have noticed some or all of these symptoms, visit your doctor for an HbA1c blood test. This test measures your average blood glucose over the previous 8 to 12 weeks and gives an indication of your longer-term blood glucose control. A result of 41 to 49 mmol/mol is considered to be pre-diabetes.
You may not notice any obvious symptoms of pre-diabetes, but if you are in any of the high-risk groups below, it’s important to talk to your doctor or nurse about a screening test.
If you are over 25 years of age and:
If you are a child or young adult with obesity (BMI of 30 or more, or 27 or more if you are Indo-Asian) and:
It is a good idea for other adults to also be tested as you become due for a cardiovascular (heart health) risk assessment at age 35, 45 or 55.
Pre-diabetes is treated by changing your lifestyle where needed. This could delay you developing diabetes by 3–4 years or even prevent you developing it. Healthy lifestyles are made up of healthy eating, active living, a healthy body weight and being smoke-free.
If you are a smoker, quitting smoking is also important.
If lifestyle changes don’t lead to your blood glucose levels reducing enough, your doctor may consider also prescribing metformin.
The best things you can do to prevent or delay pre-diabetes progressing to diabetes are to:
Diabetes support groupsDiabetes self-management support (6–8 hours over 1 day or for 3–4 consecutive weeks) is available in some areas. Ask your GP or practice nurse what’s available in your area.
The following links provide further information about pre-diabetes. Be aware that websites from other countries may have information that differs from New Zealand recommendations.
Moretips for preventing type 2 diabetes Pre-diabetes Diabetes NZ Auckland BranchJumpStart Exercise, nutrition and support programme for people with diabetes and pre-diabetesDiabetes New Zealand