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Reversing prediabetes: What you can do

​​​​​​​​Most people who have type 2 diabetes had prediabetes, a condition without symptoms or warning signs that may be prevented and treated. 

father and child playingWhen prediabetes is diagnosed, it is an alert that your body needs some attention. Making healthy lifestyle changes can reverse prediabetes to help prevent the onset of diabetes. Your doctor can help.

"A prediabetes diagnosis is made when a patient's fasting blood sugar levels are high, but the levels are not high enough to be within the range for diabetes," said Family Medicine Physician Briana Kirt, M.D.​, Marshfield Clinic Chippewa Falls Center. "The condition is diagnosed with a blood test done during a routine physical or health fair screening."

Type 2 diabetes is a chronic disorder that interferes with your body's ability to produce insulin, a hormone needed to regulate blood sugar levels. Normal fasting blood sugar levels are 70-100 mg/d. A fasting blood sugar level greater than 126 mg/dl on more than one occasion can be considered diabetes. Fasting blood sugar levels of 100-125 indicate prediabetes.

"Your doctor will likely screen you for prediabetes if you have family members who have developed type 2 diabetes or if obesity is a factor," said Dr. Kirt. "If prediabetes is diagnosed early, making lifestyle changes may reverse it."

The good news is that weight loss of 5 to 10 percent of your current weight may be enough to improve blood sugar levels.

"Weight loss, combined with exercise and attention to diet, can make a big difference," Dr. Kirt said. "Placing additional focus on these three areas of your health also can be beneficial in preventing, improving or managing other medical conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and joint pain."

Increasing numbers of people are developing diabetes and at younger ages because of the obesity epidemic, said Dr. Kirt. "If prediabetes is treated early, development of type 2 diabetes can be delayed or even prevented," she said.

If you are diagnosed with prediabetes you may expect that your health care team will include a dietitian who will provide dietary counseling. For people with risk factors such as those for heart disease, medication may be prescribed to prevent diabetes.

"Unlike other chronic medical conditions, prediabetes and type 2 diabetes can be cured," said Dr. Kirt. "Prediabetes is a serious condition. Being diagnosed with it can be a powerful motivator to make small changes for a healthier lifestyle."