Women and Prediabetes: Could It Happen to You?

3 lifestyle changes you can make now to lower your risk.

Medically Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on October 28, 2014
From the WebMD Archives

High scores for credit ratings, football games, and SATs are all good, but high blood sugar levels are no reason to celebrate. They're a sign of prediabetes. That's when your blood sugar level is higher than normal, but not high enough to mean a diabetes diagnosis.

The number of Americans with prediabetes has doubled since 1988, according to research in Annals of Internal Medicine -- bad news, since the condition raises the risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. For women, the rise in cases of prediabetes is striking. Rates skyrocketed from 15.5% in 2001 to 50.5% in 2010.

Obesity, an inactive lifestyle, and a family history of diabetes are risk factors for both men and women. But the chances of getting diabetes are also higher in women who had:

  • Gestational diabetes during pregnancy
  • Gave birth to babies weighing more than 9 pounds
  • Or were diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome

For midlife women, prediabetes is a wake-up call, since the risk of being diagnosed with diabetes increases after age 45 -- when metabolism slows, muscle mass decreases, and weight loss becomes harder.

"Don’t wait until you feel sick to get screened for prediabetes," says M. Kaye Kramer, DrPH. She's the director of the Diabetes Prevention Support Center at the University of Pittsburgh. "Early detection is essential because, if left unchecked, prediabetes increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes."

To complicate matters, prediabetes has no symptoms, which is why the American Diabetes Association estimates that fewer than 10% of the 86 million adults with prediabetes have been diagnosed.

Change Up

It’s possible to lower your prediabetes risk or keep a diagnosis from turning into type 2 diabetes. Start with these three lifestyle changes.

Focus on weight loss. Research shows that losing 10% of your body weight (about 20 pounds for a 200-pound woman) within 6 months of a prediabetes diagnosis can dramatically cut your risk of getting diabetes within 3 years.

Get moving. Kramer suggests you get 30 minutes or more of moderate-intensity exercise at least 5 days a week.

Eat well: Read nutrition labels. Aim for 45 to 60 grams of carbohydrates per meal (since carbs cause blood sugar levels to rise), with no more than 25% of your total daily calories from fat.

Show Sources


American Diabetes Association: "Diagnosing Diabetes and Learning About Prediabetes." 

News release, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.


Mayo Clinic: "Prediabetes." 

Rita Rastogi Kalyani, MD, MS, The Johns Hopkins Hospital.  

Cleveland Clinic: "Prediabetes: Wakeup Call for Midlife Women."

News release, Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Kaye Kramer, DrPH, MPH, RN, director, the Diabetes Prevention Support Center, University of Pittsburgh. 

National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse: "Insulin Resistance and Prediabetes." 

American Diabetes Association: "Fast Facts."

Diabetes Care, December 2002.

Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 2013.

American Diabetes Association: "Carbohydrate Counting."

Stanford School of Medicine: "Nutrition and Lifestyle Recommendations for People With Pre-Diabetes." 

American Heart Association website, "Know Your Fats. "

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