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Pre-Diabetes… Is there such a thing?

Glucose is the fuel our bodies derive from the foods we eat — mostly carbohydrates and not just sweets. It helps power our many biological functions as well as gives us energy for our daily tasks. When a person has diabetes, that person is unable to process glucose properly – either because their pancreas has stopped producing enough insulin (a hormone which allows glucose to enter the body’s cells and tissues) or because their body’s cells and tissues have become resistant to the insulin they do produce. Sometimes, it’s both.

But what is pre-diabetes, then?

Technically speaking, a person with pre-diabetes is a person that is beginning to show signs of impaired glucose metabolizing. The level at which a person is considered ‘impaired’ is not set in stone, and has changed through the years depending on scientific consensus regarding the likelihood for developing complications from those glucose levels. Currently, most diabetes organizations advice that persons with diabetes keep their blood glucose levels below 140 mg/dL (or as close to normal blood glucose levels as possible.)1

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A person without diabetes generally has a blood glucose level below 100 mg/dL at fasting, and below 140 mg/dL after meals.  When a person’s blood glucose level goes beyond that, but it has not yet reached the levels at which diabetes itself is diagnosed, the person is considered as having pre-diabetes.

Does not having type 2 diabetes mean we’re in the clear? No. Pre-diabetes is a serious condition. In fact, there is a growing opinion that pre-diabetes is just diabetes at its early stage.  One of the problems with telling a patient they have pre-diabetes is that they might not think they have a serious condition, and that they don’t have to make immediate lifestyle choices.

Well, here are some things to consider:

  • If anyone at all is ever able to actually reverse type 2 diabetes, it’s at this stage: It is a lot easier to make changes now, when there aren’t many serious complications looming in one’s future. Just losing a small amount of weight, making moderate changes in the total carbohydrates we consume, as well as upping our physical activity may be enough to make an impact and avoid a shortened life span.
  • Complications from high blood sugar are more likely to happen if you exceed 140 mg/dL: This is a number far below the number used to diagnosed full blown type 2 diabetes. If you are exceeding these levels, you may develop blood-glucose related complications even if you don’t yet have full blown type 2 diabetes.
  • You might already have diabetes: Diabetes often takes such a long time to diagnose, that a certain number of people who are told they have pre-diabetes are in fact misdiagnosed, and they have type 2 diabetes. It is important to have a medical team that is knowledgeable and well acquainted with the many diagnostic tools for diabetes, and their appropriateness. It doesn’t hurt to live as though we already have the condition in order to avoid issues down the line.
  • The biggest risk for developing type 2 diabetes is pre-diabetes, not obesity: Obesity is a pretty significant risk factor that may contribute to developing type 2 diabetes. But it is NOT the only one. Often, a person might think they’re in the clear because they’re not obese. But if we have a strong family history, and are still making risky choices – we can still get type 2 diabetes. Reduce your risks by eating a healthier diet, exercising regularly, and avoiding overconsumption of alcohol and smoking.

Pre-diabetes is a serious condition; it might even be considered ‘early stage’ type 2 diabetes, but with the right lifestyle modifications we may be able to reduce our risk of developing the full blown disease, and improving the quality of our lives

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

  1. National Diabetes Information Clearing House. Department of Health and Human Services. Available at: