What are the risk factors for prediabetes?

Stacy Wiegman, PharmD
Pharmacy Specialist

People with elevated glucose may be susceptible to prediabetes. Glucose is a natural sugar present in food. In the body, it provides cells with energy. When food is eaten, the nutrients (including glucose) are absorbed into the blood. The presence of glucose in the blood stimulates the pancreas to secrete insulin. The insulin facilitates the transport of glucose from the blood into the cells where it is used. If not enough insulin is secreted, the glucose blood level remains high. Higher blood glucose levels can cause prediabetes. In this condition, glucose levels are higher than normal. But they’re not high enough to be considered diabetes. Risks for type 2 diabetes also increase.

Anyone who is overweight and 45 or older should be tested for prediabetes, advises the American Diabetes Association (ADA). If you're in that age category and of normal weight, ask your doctor if testing would be appropriate.

Younger overweight women also might need testing if they have: a family history of diabetes, high blood pressure, low high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and high triglycerides, have been diagnosed with polycystic over syndrome (PCOS), had gestational diabetes or gave birth to a baby weighing more than nine pounds. Those in ethnic groups with high risk (black, Native American, Hispanic and Asian) should also talk with their healthcare providers.

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While diabetes and prediabetes occur in people of all ages and races, some groups have a higher risk for developing the disease than others. Diabetes is more common in African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans and Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders, as well as the aged population. This means they are also at increased risk for developing prediabetes.

Scientists don’t know the exact cause of prediabetes. But they’ve learned that these factors increase your chances of getting prediabetes and diabetes:

  • Being overweight
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Age 45 years or older
  • Having a parent or sibling with type 2 diabetes
  • Ethnicity (people of African American, Native American, Pacific Islander, Hispanic and Asian descent are at higher risk)
  • Previous gestational diabetes or delivery of a baby weighing more than nine pounds at birth
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol

Prediabetes is an elevation of your blood sugar above normal levels, but not quite high enough to be considered diabetes. Elevated blood sugar has been linked to many potential health problems. The most important cause of prediabetes that you can control is managing obesity. Poor diet, lack of physical activity and being overweight can all be implicated in prediabetes. However, there is also a genetic component associated with prediabetes. Working to adopt an active, healthy lifestyle is the best way to prevent prediabetes, which can develop into diabetes.

Those at increased risk of prediabetes include individuals who are: obese, inactive, over age the age of 45, have a family history of diabetes, are of a certain race (Hispanic, African-American, Asian-American, Pacific Islanders or American Indian) or have sleep disturbance (lack of sleep or even too much sleep). Women can also have increased risk due to having developed gestational diabetes during a pregnancy or having polycystic ovarian syndrome.

Risk factors for prediabetes include the following:

  • being overweight
  • getting little or no exercise
  • being 45 years of age or older
  • being a woman who has had a baby weighing more than 9 pounds at birth
  • having a sister, brother or parent with diabetes

People with high cholesterol or high blood pressure should talk to their healthcare provider about their risk for type 2 diabetes.

Trinity Health is a Catholic health care organization that acts in accordance with the Catholic tradition and does not condone or support all practices covered in this site. In case of emergency call 911. This site is educational and not a substitute for professional medical advice, always seek the advice of a qualified health care provider.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.