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Prediabetes Signs and Symptoms

March 12, 2018
Prediabetes Signs, Symptoms, Prevention and Treatment Guide

It is important to know if you have prediabetes and know prediabetes symptoms because it is a risk factor for diabetes. If you recognize and treat prediabetes, you can greatly lower your risk of developing diabetes. That is a big deal because diabetes is one of the most impactful health conditions in the U.S. 

It affects 1 in 8 American adults and is linked to comorbidities and complications such as heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, blindness and amputations. 

Up to 95% of cases of diabetes are type 2 diabetes. That means two things.

  1. These cases come after a condition called prediabetes.
  2. Many of these cases are preventable with simple lifestyle changes. 

Most people with prediabetes get diabetes within a few years, but if you have prediabetes or other risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes, you can take steps to lower your risk of being diagnosed with diabetes. Lark Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) provides personalized coaching on what you can do to lower blood sugar and prevent or delay the onset of diabetes.

How do you know if you have prediabetes and should take steps to reverse insulin resistance and lower blood sugar? It can help to recognize symptoms of prediabetes, but most people do not get symptoms of prediabetes. That is why it is also important to know who is at risk for prediabetes and diabetes, how to get tested for prediabetes, and what the some common symptoms of diabetes are.

How Many People Have Prediabetes?


Prediabetes is increasingly common. More than 1 out of 3 American adults have it, totaling about 88 million, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). People over age 45 are far more likely to develop high blood sugar or prediabetes.

Of the people with prediabetes, only 1 in 7 know that they have it. That is likely because there are usually no symptoms of prediabetes. Not being aware of prediabetes increases a person’s risk of developing diabetes since she is unlikely to properly treat her prediabetes.

About 1 in 8 adults, including nearly 1 in 4 adults over age 65, have diabetes. About 1 in 4 Americans with diabetes do not know they have it. Having diabetes increases the risk of developing health concerns such as the following.

  • Hypertension and stroke
  • Heart disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Blindness
  • Infections leading to amputations

With so many people affected by prediabetes and diabetes, it is almost certain that you are one of them or know some of them. But who are these people?

What Is Prediabetes and Who Gets It?


Prediabetes is a disease of insulin resistance and impaired blood sugar regulation. Anyone can develop prediabetes, but some people are at higher risk. These factors can cause insulin resistance and increase the risk of prediabetes and diabetes, according to the National Institutes of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK).

  • Being overweight or obese
  • Having low physical activity levels
  • Getting inadequate amounts of high-quality sleep
  • Having high levels of chronic stress or inflammation
  • Having low HDL (“good”) cholesterol under 35 mg/dL
  • Having high triglycerides over 250 mg/dL
  • Having blood pressure over 140/90 mmHg or being treated for hypertension
  • Smoking or using other tobacco products

The great thing about the above risk factors is that they can be modified, or changed. Lark DPP offers weight loss coaching and coaching to increase physical activity levels, improve sleep, and manage stress. Plus, the changes you can make as part of the Lark DPP can improve cholesterol and triglyceride levels and blood pressure.

There are other risk factors for prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. 

  • Being of a certain high-risk ethnic group, such as Hispanic/Latino, Asian American, African American, American Indian, Alaska Native, or Pacific Islander American
  • Having a family history of diabetes
  • Having had gestational diabetes or had a baby weighing over 9 lb. at birth
  • Being at least 45 years old

Though there is nothing you can do to change these risk factors, it is important to be aware of them. If you have risk factors or are concerned, you can ask your doctor for a prediabetes or diabetes test.

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Signs and Symptoms of Prediabetes


There are a couple of signs of prediabetes, but it is best not to count on them to clue you in if you have prediabetes. That is because most people do not get symptoms of prediabetes, even though there are many common signs and symptoms of diabetes. 

Some individuals who are at risk for diabetes develop a symptom called acanthosis nigricans, according to the NIDDK. Acanthosis nigricans is a visible condition that can be a sign of progression from prediabetes to diabetes. It shows itself as thickened, darkened patches of skin, typically in places such as the back of your neck or armpits.

Another possible sign of prediabetes is blurred vision. The change in vision can be a sign of high blood sugar levels interfering with eye function. It could be an early sign of diabetic retinopathy, which results from high blood sugar.

Since most people with prediabetes have no symptoms, it is important to recognize other risk factors, such as eating a high-sugar diet or not being very physically active. Along with taking a hard look at your lifestyle to see if you can make any improvements, it is a good idea to ask your healthcare provider about getting tested for prediabetes or diabetes.

Symptoms of Diabetes


You are more likely to notice signs of high blood sugar if you have diabetes than if you have prediabetes. They can include the following, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA).

  • Increased thirst and more frequent urination
  • Tingling or numbness in your fingers or feet
  • Increased hunger
  • Unexplained low energy levels
  • Blurred vision
  • Slower healing of cuts and minor wounds
  • Tingling or numbness in feet or fingers
  • Increased infections

These symptoms result from high levels of sugar in the blood and from sugar not being used properly in the body. For example, you can be hungrier than usual due to the inability of your body to use sugar properly for fuel. Plus, your body may try to excrete the excess blood sugar in urine, which causes increased urination and more thirst to replace the lost water.

Neuropathy, or tingling and numbness in the extremities, as well as slow wound healing, blurred vision, and increased infections, can result from excess glucose in the blood causing damage in different areas of the body.

Diagnosing Prediabetes and Diabetes


The only way to know for sure if you have prediabetes or diabetes is to get a blood test to determine your A1C or fasting blood sugar, or as part of an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT). Always be sure to consult your healthcare provider if you are wondering about your risk for prediabetes or for diabetes or if you have any other health concerns.

You have prediabetes if your results on any of the following tests are higher than normal, but lower than in diabetes. The NIDDK provides these guidelines for diagnosing prediabetes.

  • Oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT):
    • Drink a solution of 75 grams of glucose (the amount of sugar in about two cans of soda), and have your blood sugar measured after 1 hour.
    • Prediabetes patients have impaired glucose tolerance or a result of 140-199 mg/dL.
  • Fasting blood glucose test:
    • You go for 8 to 12 hours (usually overnight) without eating, then take a blood glucose test.
    • Prediabetes patients have impaired fasting glucose or a result of 100-125 mg/dL.
  • A1C test:
    • A simple blood test.
    • Prediabetes patients have a result of 5.7 to 6.4%.

A value that is higher than the range for prediabetes can be an indication of diabetes.

Lowering Your Risk for Prediabetes and Diabetes with Healthy Choices

Prediabetes can be reversed! signs of prediabetes and diet to prevent diabetes

Healthy lifestyle choices can improve blood sugar regardless of age, race, and family history. Losing weight and increasing physical activity levels – the major goals in Lark DPP – can lower risk for diabetes by over 50% if you are overweight or obese, according to research published in New England Journal of Medicine. Eating right, getting enough high-quality sleep, and managing stress can also improve insulin resistance and lower blood sugar.

Weight Loss and Healthy Eating

If you are overweight or obese, losing as little as 5 to 7% of body weight can make a significant difference in diabetes risk. Lark DPP can help you lose weight with features such as tracking, instant feedback, and simple tips for controlling calories and carbohydrates without feeling deprived.

The following are examples of small changes they can help with weight loss. At the same time, they can reduce insulin resistance and lower blood pressure, improve cholesterol, and lower triglyceride levels.

  • Eating more vegetables at meals and snacks
  • Swapping fatty red meat for lean cuts, skinless poultry, fish, egg whites, and beans
  • Choosing water or decaffeinated black coffee or plain tea instead of soft drinks, energy drinks, and other sugar-sweetened beverages
  • Choosing whole grains instead of refined, fruit instead of sugar-sweetened dessert, and olive oil instead of butter

You can also consider how you prepare and eat your food. These habits can help you lose weight and reduce other risk factors for diabetes.

Physical Activity

Prediabetes Prevention and treatment

The CDC recommends getting at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity physical activity, or at least 30 minutes on most days of the week. You can also break up your 30 daily minutes into three 10-minute sessions.

Examples of moderate-intensity physical activity include:

  • Walking briskly or uphill
  • Water aerobics
  • Leisurely cycling
  • Playing doubles tennis
  • Roller skating
  • Gardening and mowing the lawn.

You could alternatively do 75 minutes per week of vigorous-intensity physical activity, or hit your goals with a combination of moderate and vigorous exercises.

Examples of vigorous-intensity physical activity include:

  • Running
  • Bicycling uphill or fast
  • Swimming laps
  • Kickboxing
  • Circuit strength training
  • Playing basketball, soccer, or singles tennis

More Healthy Lifestyle Choices

Healthy living and lower blood sugar are not just about “diet and exercise.” Almost everything you do all day and night can affect blood sugar and risk for diabetes or symptoms of diabetes. Other changes to lead a healthier lifestyle include the following.

Diabetes Prevention Program


A CDC-recognized Diabetes Prevention Program, or DPP is a year-long program that is designed to help you lower your risk for diabetes. All CDC DPP providers offer:

  • Weekly lessons on topics related to a healthy lifestyle and lowering blood sugar.
  • Help with goal-setting and action plans to achieve weight, physical activity, and other goals.
  • Tools such as food and fitness logging to help you follow through with healthy intentions.
  • Lessons on healthy eating, increasing physical activity, and overcoming barriers to achieving these goals.
  • Tips for losing weight gradually as you integrate healthy choices into your life.

Many DPP opportunities offer weekly lessons at pre-scheduled meetings at a specific location, but that does not work for everyone. If traveling to on-site meetings sounds inconvenient to you, or if you are shy about going in person, you might want to look into a virtual DPP program that you can participate in from your smartphone.

Lark DPP is available 24/7 and can provide additional benefits through weight loss and other lifestyle coaching. Lark:

  • Informs you about healthy ways to lose weight and incorporate healthy behaviors into your lifestyle.
  • Motivates you to keep setting and chasing new goals.
  • Guides you through your weight loss journey in your own way.
  • Cheers for your successes, your efforts, and, should you fall short of your goals for a time, your renewed dedication.
  • Organizes by encouraging you to log your food, activity, and weight, and storing that information.

Signs and symptoms are unlikely to appear during prediabetes, so don’t wait for them! Instead, it is time to take action if you have prediabetes or have other risk factors for developing diabetes. You could be at risk for type 2 diabetes and eligible for a Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) if you have one or more risk factors such as being overweight or obese, being over 45 years old, being physically inactive, or having a family history of type 2 diabetes. 

Looking for a Diabetes Prevention Program?

You could be eligible for Lark – at no cost to you. Find out in 1 minute!

Lark Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) offers coaching through your smartphone to help manage prediabetes and lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Your Lark coach is always available to help with lifestyle choices that can prevent or delay the onset of diabetes. Lark is designed to help you establish healthy habits around areas, such as weight loss, nutrition, physical activity, and even sleep and stress management, that can effectively lower blood sugar and help avoid symptoms of diabetes. Plus, you may even get a scale or Fitbit without any cost to you!

The entire program is available to you for no cost if your health insurer participates. Click or tap here to find out if you may be eligible for Lark! Lark is completely convenient and ready to chat whenever you are. You could be minutes away from taking the first steps to managing prediabetes and improving health.

Written by Natalie Stein on March 12, 2018
Exercise, Fitness & Nutrition Expert | Lark Health
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