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Is being pre diabetic a big deal?

What is prediabetes?

Prediabetes is a condition where blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not high enough yet to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes. It means your body isn’t processing glucose properly, and your risk of developing full-blown diabetes in the future is increased. Some key facts about prediabetes:

  • Prediabetes affects 88 million American adults – that’s 1 in 3!
  • Only 10% of people with prediabetes know they have it.
  • You can have prediabetes for years without any symptoms.
  • Up to 70% of people with prediabetes will eventually develop type 2 diabetes.

The main cause of prediabetes is insulin resistance – when your body can’t use insulin properly, leading to higher blood sugar levels. Risk factors include being overweight, having a family history of type 2 diabetes, low physical activity, poor diet, and increasing age.

How do you know if you’re prediabetic?

You’ll need a blood test to determine if you have prediabetes. A doctor will check your:

  • Fasting blood glucose level – normal is less than 100 mg/dL, prediabetes is 100-125 mg/dL
  • Oral glucose tolerance test – normal is less than 140 mg/dL, prediabetes is 140-199 mg/dL
  • Hemoglobin A1C – normal is less than 5.7%, prediabetes is 5.7-6.4%

If your results fall into the prediabetes range, your doctor will likely recommend follow-up testing 3-6 months later to see if it persists.

What are the health risks of having prediabetes?

Prediabetes leads to higher risks of the following:

  • Developing type 2 diabetes – up to 70% of people with prediabetes will eventually progress to diabetes if untreated.
  • Heart disease and stroke – even short periods of hyperglycemia can damage blood vessels and nerves that control the heart.
  • Nerve damage (neuropathy) – excess sugar can injure the walls of the tiny blood vessels that nourish your nerves.

Here is a table summarizing the increased health risks with prediabetes:

Condition Risk with Prediabetes
Type 2 Diabetes Up to 70% will progress to diabetes if untreated
Heart Disease 50% higher risk than those with normal blood glucose
Stroke 30% higher risk than those with normal blood glucose
Nerve Damage 60% higher risk than those with normal blood glucose

As you can see, prediabetes significantly increases your risk of developing chronic health conditions. Catching it early and making lifestyle changes can help prevent progression to more serious illness.

What are symptoms of prediabetes?

The challenging thing about prediabetes is that there are often no clear symptoms. Some possible signs to be aware of:

  • Increased thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Fatigue
  • Blurry vision
  • Slow healing cuts/bruises
  • Tingling hands/feet
  • Itchy skin

However, many people with prediabetes experience none of these warning signs. The only way to know for sure is to get your blood glucose levels tested, especially if you have any diabetes risk factors.

Can prediabetes be reversed?

The good news is taking action once you’re diagnosed with prediabetes can often reverse course back to normal blood sugar levels. Here are three positive steps to take:

  1. Lose excess weight – Losing just 5-7% of your body weight through diet and exercise can lower your blood glucose levels to the normal range. Aim to reach and maintain a healthy weight.
  2. Exercise regularly – Just 30 minutes a day of moderate activity like brisk walking can increase insulin sensitivity and improve blood glucose control. Shoot for at least 150 minutes per week.
  3. Improve your diet – Choose fiber-rich fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Limit processed carbs, sugary foods, and unhealthy fats. Portion control is also key.

Making lifestyle modifications is the best way to reverse prediabetes and prevent type 2 diabetes. But medications like metformin may also be used under a doctor’s supervision.

Should you make diet changes with prediabetes?

Absolutely – diet plays a huge role in controlling prediabetes. The right food choices can help you:

  • Lose excess weight to improve insulin resistance
  • Better regulate blood sugar levels
  • Control portions and calories
  • Lower cholesterol and blood pressure

Here are some prediabetes diet tips:

  • Choose whole grains – brown rice, quinoa, oats, whole wheat
  • Eat plenty of fiber – fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts
  • Include healthy fats – olive oil, avocados, nuts, seeds
  • Limit sweets and sugary drinks
  • Watch carb portions at meals
  • Drink water instead of juice
  • Limit processed foods, especially those high in sodium and saturated fat

Making smart substitutions like having a side salad instead of fries can make a big difference! Meeting with a dietitian can also help tailor meal plans.

What foods should you avoid with prediabetes?

It’s important to minimize or avoid these foods linked to poor blood sugar control:

  • Sugary beverages – Soda, sweet tea, juice, sports drinks, specialty coffee drinks
  • Baked goods – Cakes, cookies, muffins, donuts, pastries
  • Snack foods – Chips, pretzels, crackers, candy, ice cream
  • Starchy foods – White bread, white rice, pasta, potatoes
  • Processed meat – Bacon, sausage, hot dogs, deli meats
  • Fried foods – French fries, mozzarella sticks, fried chicken

Choosing whole, minimally processed foods as much as possible will help manage prediabetes through diet. Portion control is also key.

What are the best exercises for prediabetics?

Exercise is a powerful tool for controlling prediabetes. All types of movement help by:

  • Increasing insulin sensitivity so your body uses insulin more efficiently
  • Helping lose weight to reduce insulin resistance
  • Burning excess blood glucose for energy

Here are some excellent exercise options:

  • Aerobic: brisk walking, swimming, cycling, elliptical
  • Strength training: free weights, resistance bands, weight machines
  • HIIT: alternating short bursts of high intensity with rest periods
  • Yoga/Pilates: improves strength, flexibility, and stress management

Aim for 30 minutes daily, or break it up into smaller 10-15 minute sessions. Checking with your doctor before significantly increasing physical activity is recommended.

Can you reverse prediabetes without medication?

In many cases, prediabetes can be reversed back to normal blood sugar levels without medication through lifestyle changes alone:

  • Losing 7% of body weight can reduce prediabetes by over 50%
  • Exercising just 30 minutes per day can lower blood glucose in prediabetics
  • Eating fewer processed carbs and more fiber improves insulin sensitivity
  • Stress management aids metabolic health

However, some individuals with more severe insulin resistance may require metformin or other medication to normalize blood sugars. Work closely with your doctor to determine the best treatment plan for your situation.

The key is not trying to reverse prediabetes overnight. Gradual sustainable lifestyle changes like improving your diet, activity levels, and weight over months and years are most effective for long-term health.

What supplements are good for prediabetes?

Certain supplements may help support healthy blood sugar levels in prediabetes when used alongside lifestyle changes. Some to consider include:

  • Berberine – This plant compound has been shown to lower fasting blood glucose and hemoglobin A1C levels.
  • Cinnamon – Cinnamon extracts can reduce blood sugar spikes after meals by improving insulin sensitivity.
  • Chromium – This mineral helps insulin escort glucose into cells, lowering blood sugar.
  • Alpha-lipoic acid – An antioxidant that has mildly lowered high blood glucose levels in studies.

However, research on supplements for prediabetes is limited. It’s best to discuss options with your doctor to determine safety and effectiveness. Supplements should complement, not replace, traditional lifestyle treatments.

What are warning signs your prediabetes is worsening?

Look out for these red flags that your prediabetes may be progressing:

  • Increasing thirst and urination
  • Fatigue, weakness, blurred vision
  • Numbness/tingling in hands and feet
  • Frequently hungry despite eating
  • Very slow healing of cuts and bruises
  • Dark velvety patches on skin, especially neck and armpits
  • Trouble getting or maintaining erections (men)
  • Recheck blood test results trending higher

Worsening prediabetes means your insulin function is declining and blood sugar levels continue creeping upwards. Don’t ignore these warning signs. See your doctor promptly to get back on track with lifestyle interventions and possible medications. The sooner you act, the better chance of reversing course.

What medications are used for prediabetes?

The most common oral medication used for prediabetes is metformin (Glucophage). It works by:

  • Reducing glucose production in the liver
  • Increasing insulin sensitivity
  • Slowing digestion of carbs

Metformin can lower hemoglobin A1c levels in prediabetics and may prevent progression to type 2 diabetes.

Other classes of medications that may be used off-label include:

  • Thiazolidinediones – Improve insulin resistance
  • Sulfonylureas – Boost insulin production from pancreas
  • DPP-4 inhibitors – Block breakdown of incretin hormones that increase insulin
  • SGLT2 inhibitors – Block kidney reabsorption of glucose

But lifestyle management is still considered first line treatment. Medications would be if blood sugars are very high or not responding sufficiently to diet and exercise.

What are the pros and cons of metformin for prediabetes?

Potential benefits of metformin:

  • Lowers HbA1c and fasting blood glucose levels
  • Aids weight loss and increases insulin sensitivity
  • Well-studied in prediabetes with good efficacy data
  • Low cost and few drug interactions
  • Prevents progression to type 2 diabetes by over 50%

Potential disadvantages of metformin:

  • Digestive side effects like diarrhea, nausea and abdominal pain
  • Should be avoided in advanced kidney disease due to risk of lactic acid buildup
  • Can rarely cause vitamin B12 deficiency
  • Requires regular monitoring of kidney function
  • Not approved by FDA for prediabetes treatment

Overall, metformin has a favorable safety profile and may be appropriate if prediabetes is not responding to lifestyle changes alone. Work with your doctor on whether it could help.

What blood sugar level is too high for prediabetes?

The technical cutoff for diagnosing prediabetes versus normal blood sugar levels is:

  • Fasting blood glucose 100-125 mg/dL (prediabetes vs. under 100 mg/dL normal)
  • HbA1c 5.7-6.4% (prediabetes vs. under 5.7% normal)
  • Oral glucose tolerance test 140-199 mg/dL (prediabetes vs. under 140 mg/dL normal)

However, keep in mind that blood sugar levels exist on a continuum – there’s no magic number where suddenly you’re prediabetic. Some experts argue the threshold should be lowered even further to optimize catching diabetes risk earlier.

The higher your results even within the “normal” range, the more diligent you should be about lifestyle interventions to prevent rising blood sugars. Work with your doctor to determine if your levels are too high for your comfort.

Can I get rid of prediabetes forever?

There is no cure for prediabetes. Even with optimal management, your risk of progressing to type 2 diabetes only decreases – it does not go away entirely.

However, prediabetes can often be well-controlled and “reversed” for long periods by:

  • Maintaining healthy body weight
  • Exercising regularly
  • Following a nutritious, balanced diet
  • Taking metformin or other medications if needed
  • Quitting smoking and limiting alcohol intake

Sticking with healthy long-term lifestyle habits gives you the best shot at avoiding complications of prediabetes and keeping blood sugars normal indefinitely. But periodic blood sugar monitoring and doctor’s visits are still needed.

Does prediabetes qualify you as disabled?

Prediabetes alone is not considered a disability by the Social Security Administration (SSA). To qualify for disability benefits from the SSA, you must:

  • Have a severe medical condition that prevents working for at least one year or results in death
  • Be unable to perform work you did previously or adjust to other types of work

Since prediabetes usually causes no symptoms, it typically does not meet the SSA criteria for disability. Even with full type 2 diabetes, you must prove it substantially impacts your ability to work.

However, complications of uncontrolled prediabetes like neuropathy, kidney failure, amputations or diabetic eye disease could potentially qualify you. But peripheral neuropathy would have to significantly limit standing and walking capacity, for example.

Talk to your doctor honestly about any limitations you’re experiencing that may impact your ability to work. They can assess whether pursuing disability benefits is appropriate for your situation.

Is prediabetes a disability under the ADA?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects employees with disabilities from workplace discrimination. But having prediabetes alone without complications is not considered a disability under the ADA in most cases.

For a medical condition to qualify as a disability under the ADA it must:

  • Substantially limit one or more major life activities
  • A record of such impairment
  • Regarded as having such impairment by employer

Since prediabetes usually has no symptoms, most people would not be considered substantially limited. Exceptions could include needing frequent breaks to eat snacks or test blood sugar at work.

However, diabetes complications like advanced neuropathy, vision loss, amputations or kidney disease could potentially qualify if shown to meet the ADA disability criteria.

Does prediabetes qualify you for disability parking?

Having a diagnosis of prediabetes alone does not qualify you for disability parking access in most states. To get disability license plates or placards for disabled parking, you typically need to have:

  • Limited mobility that substantially impairs walking
  • A severe health condition that limits stamina
  • Vision loss hindering navigation
  • A lung disease causing shortness of breath

Prediabetes itself does not usually cause these types of functional limitations. However, certain complications like advanced diabetic peripheral neuropathy limiting sensation and movement in the feet and legs could potentially qualify.

Criteria for disabled parking varies by state. Have your doctor document how your condition functionally limits you to see if you meet eligibility requirements in your area.

Is prediabetes considered a disability when applying for life insurance?

When applying for life insurance, having prediabetes will likely result in a somewhat higher premium quote compared to normal glucose levels. However, it is generally not considered a disqualifying disability.

Life insurance companies will look at factors like:

  • Your exact lab results and glucose control
  • Whether you have complications like neuropathy
  • Your response to lifestyle management and medications
  • Coexisting conditions like obesity or hypertension

Well-controlled prediabetes with a commitment to diet, exercise, and regular medical follow-up may qualify for close-to-standard rates. But poorly controlled blood sugars leading to health complications could be rated as high risk.

Being transparent about your diagnosis allows companies to accurately evaluate and price your policy. Most applicants with prediabetes can obtain coverage.

Does prediabetes qualify you for social security disability insurance (SSDI)?

To qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, you must meet Social Security Administration (SSA) criteria for disability:

  • Inability to work due to medical condition expected to last at least one year or result in death
  • Condition must prevent you from doing work you previously performed or adjusting to other work

Prediabetes alone does not qualify, as it does not typically cause impairments that preclude working. Even having progressed to type 2 diabetes does not automatically qualify you for SSDI benefits.

However, if prediabetes results in severe complications like kidney failure, amputations, or diabetic retinopathy with vision loss, you may potentially meet SSDI disability criteria. Your doctor would need to thoroughly document your limitations.

Like any disability determination, SSDI eligibility with prediabetes is evaluated on a case-by-case basis by the SSA. Apply if you cannot work due to functional limitations caused by your condition.

Can prediabetes make you eligible for vocational rehabilitation services?

State vocational rehabilitation (VR) agencies offer services to help those with disabilities find and retain employment. To receive VR services, you must:

  • Have physical or mental condition that results in substantial barrier to employment
  • Require VR services to achieve employment goal

Prediabetes alone without complications would likely not qualify, as it usually does not impair your functional abilities. However, if prediabetes resulted in issues like:

  • Peripheral neuropathy needing assistive devices to walk
  • Kidney disease requiring accommodation for dialysis treatments
  • Diabetic retinopathy severely reducing vision

Then VR services like assistive technology, training programs, or workplace accommodations may be warranted. Be prepared to have your doctor document your limitations. Not all applicants with disabilities qualify for services.


While prediabetes itself does not constitute a disability, poorly controlled blood sugars can progress to type 2 diabetes with complicating conditions like neuropathy, kidney and eye disease that may meet disability criteria.

The key is not letting your prediabetes worsen by making positive lifestyle changes when first diagnosed. Controlling blood sugars, keeping weight down, exercising, and taking your doctor’s advice can help prevent long-term disability down the road.

Stay on top of managing your health – you have a lot of power to avoid prediabetes becoming a big deal!