Could you have prediabetes?

Woman thinking
Prediabetes or borderline diabetes is exactly what it sounds like. It means your blood sugar levels are high, but they’re not high enough for you to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes–yet. Although your likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes can depend on your ethnicity and your genetics, it can be caused by an unhealthy lifestyle, too.
Don’t take diabetes lightly. It’s a serious, life-long condition that needs constant management, and once you have diabetes, you’re at a greater risk of developing heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure. In this guide we’ll discuss what prediabetes is, the causes, and how you can prevent it so you can live a long, healthy and diabetes-free life.

What is prediabetes?

Prediabetes is the stage before you’re diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, meaning your blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not high enough for a formal diagnosis. To know if you have prediabetes or type 2 diabetes, you need to have a blood test.
Prediabetes doesn’t have any symptoms, so if you’re experiencing symptoms such as urinating more often, fatigue, losing weight without trying, extreme thirst or cuts and wounds are taking longer to heal, you may have already developed type 2 diabetes.

What causes prediabetes?

Currently, there’s around 13.6 million people in the UK who are at an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, and certain people will be more at risk than others. Type 2 diabetes occurs when the insulin in your body isn’t working as it should, so your blood sugar levels continue to rise.
Type 2 diabetes can be tricky to detect, with some people even going years without realising they have it! This is why it’s vital for you to know the risk factors and get tested. You’re at risk of developing type 2 diabetes if you:

  • Are white and over the age of 40, or you’re African-Caribbean, Black African or South Asian and you’re over the age of 25
  • Have a parent, brother, sister or child with diabetes
  • Have high blood pressure
  • If you’re carrying extra weight, especially around your middle


How to prevent type 2 diabetes

If you’ve been told you have prediabetes, this is a warning sign that you are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the future. Don’t worry! You don’t have it yet, and there are things you can do to lower your risk; about 50% of cases can be prevented or delayed.
You can lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by making changes to your diet, increasing your physical activity and losing weight if you’re overweight. Just because you’re considered at risk doesn’t mean you will definitely develop type 2 diabetes, but by implementing some healthy changes into your lifestyle, you can reduce your chances.
Women exercising

Stay in a healthy weight

If you’re overweight, you are at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. However, by losing just 5% of your body weight, it can significantly reduce your risk.
Losing weight doesn’t have to be daunting–there are lots of things you can try, and you may have to try a few different methods to find the one that suits you. A good place to start is by making better, healthier food choices and being more active.

Eat a healthy, balanced diet

There isn’t one diet that will suit everyone. But certain food and drink is linked to an increased chance of you developing type 2 diabetes. For example, if a lot of your diet consists of high-fat, high GI (glycaemic index) and low fibre content, this is linked to a type 2 diabetes risk.
The Mediterranean diet, Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet, vegetarian and vegan diets, and the Nordic diet have shown to decrease your risk.
These diets are rich with healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, wholegrains and lean proteins. Specifically leafy green vegetables, blueberries, grapes, apples, wholegrains, yoghurt, cheese and unsweetened tea and coffee are best to lower your diabetes risk.
There are also some foods that have the opposite effect, like sugary drinks, refined carbohydrates, potatoes and red, processed meat.

Get active

If you spend a lot of your time sitting down, you’re living a sedentary lifestyle, which is linked to the development of type 2 diabetes, so get active! 
Of course, you might not feel ready to throw yourself into the gym or take up a new sport. Start slow and simple, with exercise you can manage. Try to use the stairs instead of the lift, or go for a walk on your lunch break instead of being chained to your desk. These small changes can make a difference.
Women cooking healthy food together
If you believe you’re at risk of developing type 2 diabetes or you’re displaying symptoms, it’s important to speak to your GP to get your blood sugar levels checked. Type 2 diabetes can be hard to detect, but left undiagnosed, it can lead to problems down the line if your symptoms go untreated. If you need further information about prediabetes or type 2 diabetes, visit the Diabetes UK or the NHS website.

Alexandra Moses - Medical Content Writer
James O'Loan - CEO & Superintendent Pharmacist
James O'Loan , CEO & Superintendent Pharmacist on 14 March 2023
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