Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Diabetes Health Center

Select An Article
Font Size

What Is Prediabetes?


What is the hemoglobin A1C Test?

The hemoglobin A1C test is a simple blood test that reflects the average blood sugar for the past 3 to 4 months.  It can be used to diagnose prediabetes or diabetes. It can also be used to check if your diabetes is under control:

  • Normal: 5.6% or less
  • Prediabetes: 5.7 to 6.4%
  • Diabetes: 6.5 % or above


How common is prediabetes?

The CDC estimates that bout 79 million people in the U.S. over age 20 have prediabetes.  

Prediabetes should not be ignored. It signals the likely onset of a more serious condition, and it can begin the process of doing damage to your heart and possibly other organs such as the kidneys, eyes, and nervous system.

Are there lifestyle changes recommended for prediabetes?

Lifestyle changes can help many people with prediabetes to delay -- or even prevent -- the onset of full-blown diabetes. Changes that can help prevent diabetes include losing weight to bring total weight to a near-normal range, exercising daily, and eating balanced meals.

In a large research study called the Diabetes Prevention Program, the following lifestyle changes reduced the development of diabetes over three years by 58%. For people aged 60 or older, the reduction was an even greater 71%.

  • Weight control.Obese and overweight people are at high risk of having prediabetes turn into diabetes. Losing some excess weight can reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes. Even losing 5% to 10% of excess body weight can help.
  • Exercise. Studies have shown that moderate exercise for 30 minutes a day, such as cycling, swimming, or brisk walking, helps prevent -- and manage -- diabetes. Aerobic exercise, the kind that gets your heart rate up to your target heart rate, is ideal for losing weight and preventing prediabetes from turning into type 2 diabetes. Check with your doctor before starting an exercise plan or increasing your activity level.
  • Nutrition. Healthy meals that mix a balance of low-fat protein, vegetables, and whole grains can help prevent prediabetes from becoming diabetes. Calorie control, portion sizes (no super-sizing), and low-sugar, low-carbohydrate choices are key. Eating adequate fiber every day also helps.

Following these steps will also help reduce other risk factors for heart disease and stroke, including high blood pressure. High blood pressure is often present in people with diabetes and prediabetes.

Your doctor may also advise lowering any other heart disease risks you may have, such as smoking and high cholesterol levels.

You can control your prediabetes by creating a healthier lifestyle. If prediabetes does become type 2 diabetes, these lifestyle changes -- weight control, exercise, nutrition, and blood pressure control -- build the platform for managing diabetes for life. A healthy lifestyle may also help you prevent or delay the need to begin using medications such as insulin to control blood sugar levels. 


WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by David T. Derrer, MD on May 27, 2013
Next Article:

Is This Normal? Get the Facts Fast!

Check Your Blood Sugar Level Now
What type of diabetes do you have?
Your gender:

Get the latest Diabetes newsletter delivered to your inbox!


Your level is currently

If the level is below 70 or you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.

People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.

Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.

However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.

Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.

One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Did You Know Your Lifestyle Choices
Affect Your Blood Sugar?

Use the Blood Glucose Tracker to monitor
how well you manage your blood sugar over time.

Get Started

This tool is not intended for women who are pregnant.

Start Over

Step:  of 

Today on WebMD

Diabetic tools
Symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and more.
woman flexing muscles
10 strength training exercises.
Blood sugar test
12 practical tips.
Tom Hanks
Stars living with type 1 or type 2.
Woman serving fast food from window
Can Vinegar Treat Diabetes
Middle aged person
are battery operated toothbrushes really better

Prediabetes How to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
type 2 diabetes
food fitness planner
Are You at Risk for Dupuytrens Contracture