What is Prediabetes?

What is Prediabetes?

Prediabetes is when your blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to be considered diabetes. Prediabetes places people at high risk for developing type 2 diabetes.

Millions of adults in the United States have prediabetes, many without knowing it. The good news? Prediabetes is reversible if preventative actions are taken.

Prediabetes vs. diabetes

Though prediabetes is a less severe condition than diabetes, it can progress into diabetes. Diabetes is a chronic disease that impacts how your body turns food into energy and, over time, can cause severe damage to the heart, blood vessels, nerves, eyes, and kidneys.

The difference between prediabetes and diabetes comes from blood sugar levels or hemoglobin A1C measurements. If a fasting plasma glucose test reveals your blood sugar to be 100 to 125 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) or your hemoglobin A1C is between 5.7% and 6.4%, you are considered prediabetic.

Without intervention, prediabetes can progress into diabetes within five years.

Signs & Symptoms of Prediabetes


Unfortunately, there usually are no warning signs or symptoms of prediabetes—it’s often a “silent” condition. People may have it for years and not exhibit symptoms until they develop diabetes. This is why it is important to visit your doctor for testing and prevention strategies.

Some symptoms can gradually appear if prediabetes progresses to diabetes, including:

  • Increased thirst
  • Fatigue
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Frequent urination
  • Dark spots on the skin
  • Blurred vision

A primary care doctor can help diagnose symptoms that suggest prediabetes has progressed to diabetes and refer you to a specialist if additional care is needed.

What Causes Prediabetes?


Individuals with prediabetes cannot process glucose (sugar) properly.

When we eat, the sugar from digested food enters the bloodstream. Insulin, produced by the pancreas, allows blood sugar into your cells so they can use it for energy. If you have prediabetes, your cells don’t respond normally. Sugar can build up in your blood cells because:

  • Your cells develop a resistance to insulin, allowing less sugar in
  • Your pancreas stops making enough insulin

Gestational diabetes can develop when women are pregnant. During pregnancy, the placenta produces hormones that make it difficult for insulin to control blood sugar levels.

Risk Factors for Prediabetes

Risk Factors

While the precise cause of prediabetes is unknown, some factors can increase your risk of developing the condition and elevate your odds of having type 2 diabetes.

The risk factors include:

  • Being overweight -The more fatty tissue you have, especially around the abdomen, the more resistant your cells can become to insulin
  • Diet - A diet heavy in red meat, processed meat, and sugary drinks can cause prediabetes
  • Age - The risk for prediabetes increases in people over 45
  • Waist size - Insulin resistance can rise if the waist size expands over 35 inches for a woman, 40 inches for a man
  • Lack of exercise/inactivity
  • Family history - Your risk goes up for developing prediabetes if a parent or sibling has it
  • Race/ethnicity - Hispanic, Black, American Indian, and Asian American people are at higher risk than whites
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome - A hormonal condition in women that causes irregular periods, obesity, and excessive hair growth
  • Metabolic syndrome - A condition defined by excess body fat around the waist, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and irregular cholesterol levels
  • Gestational diabetes - Developing gestational diabetes while pregnant can raise your and the child’s risk of prediabetes
  • Sleep apnea – Sleep apnea can increase the risk of insulin resistance
  • High cholesterol - Having high triglycerides, high LDL cholesterol, and low HDL cholesterol can increase your prediabetes risk
  • Tobacco smoking - Smoking can raise your risk for prediabetes



Prediabetes is linked to serious health complications. If prediabetes progresses into type 2 diabetes, you can develop:



Even if diabetes runs in your family, prediabetes can be prevented with diet and lifestyle modifications. If you’ve been diagnosed with prediabetes, some healthy lifestyle changes can reverse the condition and lower the risk that it develops into type 2 diabetes.

Preventive actions include:

  • Losing weight - If you have excess body weight, losing even a small amount may help prevent prediabetes and type 2 diabetes
  • Exercising regularly - Just 30 minutes of walking a day can reduce your prediabetes risk
  • Eating healthy foods - Avoid fried and greasy foods in exchange for lean meats, fruits, and vegetables
  • Quitting smoking
  • Moderating your alcohol consumption
Get Care

Trust NewYork-Presbyterian for Prediabetes Care

Early detection of prediabetes is vital in preventing type 2 diabetes. NewYork-Presbyterian offers top-notch primary care physicians that can assess your risk, order tests, offer treatment options, and make referrals to specialists.

NewYork-Presbyterian provides a range of scheduling options, with early, late, and weekend hours, plus same-day appointments for critical needs. We accept most insurances and offer a convenient patient portal.

If you have concerns about prediabetes or developing type 2 diabetes, contact us for an appointment or virtual urgent care visit (for qualified patients) with NewYork-Presbyterian or one of our medical group locations.