What Is Prediabetes?

By Temma Ehrenfeld @temmaehrenfeld
February 27, 2023
What Is Prediabetes?

More than a third of Americans have blood sugar levels that put them at high risk of getting diabetes. If the results of a test called A1C test are 5.7 to 6.4, you have prediabetes.

When your doctor tells you that your blood sugar is too high but you’re not quite diabetic — you have prediabetes. You probably won’t have any symptoms.

About 80 percent of Americans with prediabetes don't realize they have the condition; many with type 2 diabetes don’t know either.

You might think — I’m not sick, why worry? Here’s why: Too much glucose over time can lead to nerve damage, lowered resistance to infection, and heart and kidney disease.

Yet, there are simple steps you can take early for maximum effect. Let a diagnosis of prediabetes inspire you to take care of yourself. Losing as little as 5 to 7 percent of your body weight could bring your blood sugar levels down.


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Who is at risk for prediabetes?

More than one out of three Americans falls into the prediabetes danger zone. If you haven’t had a checkup, take an online screening quiz to see your risk here. You can also buy an at-home A1C test at major drugstores for $50 or less.

People over the age of 45 with extra weight are at more risk, as are African Americans, Asian Americans, and Latinos. So are women with polycystic ovary syndrome or those who had gestational diabetes.

You might already be exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy weight but be vulnerable because of your genetics. If your parent or sibling has type 2 diabetes, you are more at risk.

What is prediabetes?

It means you fell into a high-risk category according to one of three tests of blood sugar. The A1C test measures your average blood sugar level over the past 2 or 3 months. An A1C below 5.7 percent is normal. If it falls between 5.7 and 6.4 percent, you have prediabetes. Diabetes begins at 6.5 percent.

Another approach is to measure your blood sugar after an overnight fast. It should be 99 mg/dL or less. From 100 to 125 mg/dL is the prediabetic range. From 126 ml/dl on up indicates diabetes.

In the glucose tolerance test, you’ll fast overnight and give blood, then drink a liquid and have your blood checked at one, two, and three hours. At two hours, a blood sugar level of 140 mg/dL or lower is considered normal, 140 to 199 mg/dL is defined as diabetic, and 200 mg/dL or higher diabetic.

Some people may have a normal fasting glucose test but a simultaneous A1C test in the prediabetes range. Very hot or humid weather, high altitudes, and anemia can affect your blood sugar levels.

You can also test your blood at any time using an over-the-counter diabetes meter. If your blood sugar is 200 mg/dL or higher, you have diabetes.

ResultA1C TestFasting Blood Sugar TestGlucose Tolerance TestRandom Blood Sugar Test
Diabetes6.5% or above126 mg/dL or above200 mg/dL or above200 mg/dL or above
Prediabetes5.7 - 6.4%100 - 125 mg/dL140 - 199 mg/dLN/A
NormalBelow 5.7%99 mg/dL or below140 mg/dL or belowN/A

*Results for gestational diabetes can differ. Ask your healthcare provider what your results mean if you’re being tested for gestational diabetes. Source: American Diabetes Association

If you may have type 1 diabetes — when your pancreas produces little or no insulin — your doctor will also check for autoantibodies and test your urine for ketones.

What are the signs of diabetes?

Some early signs include:

  • Urinating frequently
  • Unusual hunger or thirst
  • Fatigue despite enough sleep
  • Blurry vision
  • Numbness or tingling in your hands or feet
  • Dry skin
  • Slow-healing sores
  • Frequent infections

Get support for success

Getting enough exercise, sleep, social connection, and a healthful diet will improve your health. For details and support, look for an online or in-person group approved by the National Diabetes Prevention Program.


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February 27, 2023

Reviewed By:  

Janet O'Dell, RN