Prediabetes is a warning. It means that your blood sugar (glucose) levels are higher than normal.
You could develop type 2 diabetes within 10 years if you do not make any lifestyle changes.
You can think of prediabetes as an opportunity to make healthy changes and delay or prevent
diabetes in the future.
How is Prediabetes Diagnosed?
A person is diagnosed with prediabetes using any of three blood glucose tests:
Test What’s it for? Desirable Prediabetes Diabetes
Measures the level of
glucose in your blood
after at least an 8 hour
fast (usually first thing
in the morning).
126 mg/dl or
Measures your average
blood glucose level
over the past 3 months.
4.5-5.6% 5.7-6.4% 6.5% or
75 gram Oral
Measures blood glucose
2 hours after drinking a
200 mg/dl or
What is glucose?
Everyone has glucose (sugar) in their blood. The normal range for glucose in the bloodstream is
70-99 mg/dl. Glucose provides energy to the brain and muscles in the body. The hormone
insulin must be present to help the body use glucose. For people with prediabetes, insulin levels
may be low, or the body may be resistant to the action of insulin. As a result, cells do not get
the energy they need, and blood glucose rises.
What does Insulin Resistance Mean?
Insulin resistance means that even though insulin is present, it is not letting the glucose into the
cells. The body then makes more insulin. Over time the high insulin level starts to be a problem
(hunger, weight gain, inflammation).
Causes of Insulin Resistance
Scientists believe the main causes of insulin resistance are high body weight (especially around
the waist) and low physical activity. Other causes of insulin resistance may be your genes,
certain diseases, hormones, steroid use, some medicines, older age, sleep problems (especially
sleep apnea), and cigarette smoking.
Keep Blood Sugar Levels in Control
People with prediabetes may have to work harder to keep blood glucose levels within a normal
range. The more you work to keep your glucose in control at this stage, the more you may
delay or prevent diabetes. There is no quick cure for prediabetes; it’s all about lifestyle
changes. Creating new habits takes time. Set small goals.
Steps to Lower Blood Glucose Levels:
1. Be physically active every day. Start slow (even 3-5 minutes at first) and work up to 30
minutes or more each day. Try walking, biking, dancing, swimming, etc. Exercise is the
My physical activity goal: _______________________________________________
2. Avoid sugary foods and drinks. Choose water with lemon, tea or coffee. Avoid fruit juice,
fruit drinks, lemonade, sweetened teas, etc. Limit sweets or desserts to a very small serving
once a day at most.
3. If overweight, work on weight loss.
ξ Losing weight can help your cells use insulin better.
ξ Expect slow, gradual weight loss over 1-2 years. Even losing 5-10 pounds can help. You
do not need to reach a “perfect” weight for better blood glucose levels.
What is the most important thing you learned from this handout?
What changes will you make in your diet/lifestyle, based on what you learned today?
If you are a UW Health patient and have more questions please contact UW Health at one of the
phone numbers listed below. You can also visit our website at www.uwhealth.org/nutrition
Nutrition clinics for UW Hospital and Clinics (UWHC) and American Family Children’s
Hospital (AFCH) can be reached at: (608) 890-5500
Nutrition clinics for UW Medical Foundation (UWMF) can be reached at: (608) 287-2770
The Spanish version of this Health Facts for You is #607
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you
have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor. This
is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because each
person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team when using
this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright © 11/2016 University of Wisconsin Hospitals
and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Clinical Nutrition Services Department and the Department
of Nursing. HF#510