Prediabetes is a condition characterized by high blood sugar levels. Some diet and lifestyle habits can help you manage your blood sugar levels and prevent the condition from progressing to type 2 diabetes.

If you’ve received a diagnosis of prediabetes, you may wonder what that means. Prediabetes is a condition in which your blood glucose levels are above normal but not high enough for a diabetes diagnosis.

As of 2019, 96 million adults in the United States had prediabetes. That’s about 1 in 3 adults in the United States.

An estimated 15% to 30% of people with prediabetes may develop diabetes in as little as 3 to 5 years. However, interventions such as weight loss and increased physical activity may reduce the chances of developing diabetes.

Prediabetes can be a serious concern. People who have prediabetes or diabetes have a greater risk of developing heart disease than people without either condition.

Doctors can perform four tests to find out whether you have high blood sugar.

The A1C test is a blood test that measures the percentage of sugar that’s attached to your hemoglobin, a protein in your red blood cells. The higher your A1C is, the higher your average blood sugar levels have been running over the past 3 months.

The A1C test is also known by these names:

  • hemoglobin A1c test
  • HbA1c test
  • glycosylated hemoglobin test

A normal A1C level is below 5.7%, which corresponds to an estimated average blood sugar level lower than 117 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL).

An A1C of 5.7% to 6.4% suggests prediabetes, while an A1C of 6.5% or more indicates type 2 diabetes if the result is confirmed.

According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), up to 25% of people with an A1C of 5.5% to 6% will develop diabetes in 5 years, and up to 50% of those with an A1C of 6% to 6.4% will.

If your results are questionable, a doctor will recheck your A1C on another day to confirm the diagnosis.

ResultA1CEstimated average blood glucose level (mg/dL)
normal A1C levelbelow 5.7%below 117
prediabetes A1C level5.7%–6.4%117–137
diabetes A1C levelabove 6.4%above 137

The FPG test is a blood test that healthcare professionals perform after you have fasted overnight. It measures the sugar in your blood.

A normal fasting glucose test result is lower than 100 mg/dL. A result of 100 to 125 mg/dL indicates prediabetes, and one that’s 126 mg/dL or above indicates diabetes.

If your result is 126 mg/dL or above, you’ll have the test again on a different day to confirm the diagnosis.

ResultFPG level (mg/dL)
normal FPG levelbelow 100
prediabetes FPG level100–125
diabetes FPG levelabove 125

An RPG test is a blood test that healthcare professionals may perform any time of day when you are not fasting. It measures the sugar level in your blood at that moment in time.

An RPG result of 200 mg/dL or higher indicates diabetes, especially if you’re experiencing symptoms of diabetes such as excessive thirst, hunger, or urination.

If your level is higher, a doctor will use one of the other tests listed to confirm the diagnosis.

The OGTT takes a little more time than the other two glucose tests for diabetes. In this test, a healthcare professional draws your blood once after an overnight fast and again 2 hours after you drink a sugary beverage.

It’s normal for your blood sugar to rise after you consume the drink. However, normal blood sugar falls to below 140 mg/dL within 2 hours.

If your blood sugar level is 140 to 199 mg/dL, a doctor will diagnose prediabetes. A level of 200 mg/dL or higher indicates type 2 diabetes.

ResultBlood glucose level (mg/dL)
normal OGTT levelbelow 140
prediabetes OGTT level140–199
diabetes OGTT levelabove 199

If you’ve received a diagnosis of prediabetes, you can take some steps to help reduce your chance of developing diabetes and return your blood glucose to a normal range.

Eat a healthy diet

Maintaining a healthy, balanced diet can help reduce your risk of developing diabetes. Changing your diet can be challenging, but you can start by making small changes. Track everything you eat for a few days so you can understand what food groups you may be over- or undereating.

Try to eat foods from each of the five food groups every day:

It’s important to consume healthy fats each day as well.

Using the information from your food log, you can start to make small changes. The goal is to choose more minimally processed whole foods instead of highly processed foods that contain added sugar, little fiber, and unhealthy fats.

For example, if you’re not eating the recommended servings of vegetables, try adding one serving of vegetables per day to your diet.

You can do this by having a salad with lunch or dinner or snacking on carrot sticks. Just be careful with add-ons such as salad dressings or dips, which can add unhealthy fats or extra calories. Check out these 8 healthy salad dressing recipes.

It’s also important to work on choosing nutrient-dense foods instead of foods high in empty calories, as well as switching out simple carbohydrate foods for complex carbohydrates. Here are some examples of substitutions you can try:

Get active

Exercise is also important for managing your blood sugar levels. Aim for 30 minutes of exercise 5 days per week.

As with dietary changes, you can start slow and work your way up to more exercise.

If you’re not very active, you may be able to start by parking farther away from a building’s entrance or taking the stairs instead of an escalator or elevator. Taking a walk around the block with your family or a neighbor after dinner is another great way to add some exercise to your day.

Once you get more comfortable with increasing your activity level, you can start doing more vigorous activities, such as jogging or attending a workout class.

Remember to always get a doctor’s approval before beginning a new workout routine. They can let you know if there are activities you should avoid or things you should monitor, such as your heart rate.

Maintain a moderate weight

Eating a balanced diet and exercising can help you reach or maintain a moderate weight.

You can work with a doctor or dietitian to determine how many calories to eat each day. If they recommend that you lose weight, ask them how much weight you should try to lose per week to reach your goal.

Restrictive diets and extreme workout plans are not sustainable or realistic for long-term maintenance. They’re often unhealthy as well. A doctor or dietitian can recommend a plan to help you lose weight at a reasonable rate.

Prediabetes often leads to diabetes, and most of the time, it has no noticeable symptoms. That’s why it’s important to have your blood glucose levels checked, especially if you’re older than 45 or have a family history of diabetes.

The ADA recommends testing before age 45 if you have overweight and one of these other risk factors:

If you have prediabetes, you can reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by exercising for about 30 minutes each day. Your doctor may recommend that you try to lose 5% to 7% of your body weight to reduce your risk. A doctor may also prescribe a medication to help regulate your blood sugar.

Prediabetes does not always progress to type 2 diabetes. Healthy lifestyle habits can help you get and keep your blood sugar levels within a normal range.