What is pre-diabetes?
If your blood glucose level is higher than normal but not high enough to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes, you may have a condition called pre-diabetes. This means your body’s insulin is not working effectively.
Pre-diabetes is also known as impaired glucose tolerance, impaired fasting glucose or insulin resistance. It’s estimated that two million Australians are currently living with pre-diabetes.
What are the risks associated with pre-diabetes?
Pre-diabetes can increase your risk of cardiovascular (heart and blood vessel) disease, which can lead to heart attack and stroke.
Left untreated, pre-diabetes can develop into type 2 diabetes within five to 10 years. However, leading a healthy lifestyle can help you manage pre-diabetes and reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes – so the earlier you find out, the better.
Diagnosis of pre-diabetes
Pre-diabetes is diagnosed with an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT). Your doctor can order this simple test and you can have it at a pathology laboratory. If you think you may be at risk of pre-diabetes, talk to your doctor about it as soon as possible.
Am I at risk of prediabetes?
Answering these questions can help you work out if you’re at risk of pre-diabetes:
- Do you have high blood pressure?
- Are you overweight?
If you are above your healthy weight range, your risk of developing pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes can double. If you are obese the risk increases by four.
- Do you lead a sedentary (inactive) lifestyle?
- Do you have high triglycerides and low HDL cholesterol, or high total cholesterol?
- Do you have heart disease, or have you had a heart attack?
- Have you had diabetes in pregnancy (gestational diabetes) or did you give birth to a big baby (more than 4.5kg)?
- Do you have polycystic ovarian syndrome?
- Are you of Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander, Pacific Island, Asian and/or Indian heritage?
- Does someone in your family have type 2 diabetes?
- Do you have a family history of type 2 diabetes or heart disease?
If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, you could be at risk of pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes. You can use our risk calculator to determine your diabetes risk.
What to do if you think you may be at risk?
If you think you may be at risk of pre-diabetes, it’s important to talk to your doctor about it at your next visit.
If you are diagnosed with pre-diabetes it is likely that you will develop type 2 diabetes within five to 10 years. Research has shown you can reduce that risk by making lifestyle changes that include regular physical activity and healthy eating.
For more information, talk to your GP or call the NDSS Helpline on 1300 136 588.
Living with pre-diabetes
Pre-diabetes may have no signs or symptoms but having pre-diabetes means you are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
If you manage your pre-diabetes, this can help to delay, and in some cases prevent, the development of type 2 diabetes.
Leading a healthy lifestyle
A healthy lifestyle is the key to managing your pre-diabetes. This may mean losing some weight, finding a way to be consistent with regular physical activity, and making changes to the foods you eat.
- Weight loss – losing just 5-10 per cent of your body weight can reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes
- Regular physical activity – reduces blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol levels
- Healthy eating– choosing a wide variety of healthy foods, including some lower GI options and reducing portion sizes can help to manage blood glucose, weight, blood pressure and cholesterol
Smoking raises your risk of type 2 diabetes by up to 40 per cent. If you smoke, one of the best things you can do for your health is to try to quit. Seeking support from your friends, family, doctor and Quitline (13 78 48) can improve your chance of success.
Have an annual pre-diabetes health check
If you have pre-diabetes, it’s important to have an annual health check, including a blood test to check for type 2 diabetes. By adopting and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, you can delay the development of type 2 diabetes and maybe even prevent it altogether.
Check out our factsheet to understand pre-diabetes and how to manage it.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and diabetes
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is one of the most common hormone-related conditions experienced by women and a leading cause of infertility. It can also be a risk factor for other health problems like diabetes.
12–18 per cent of women suffer from PCOS during their reproductive years between late adolescence and menopause.
If you have PCOS you may experience some of the following symptoms:
- Difficulty becoming pregnant
- Irregular or absent periods
- Excessive facial and body hair growth
- Hair loss from the head
- Weight gain (especially around the mid-section) and difficulty losing weight
What is the relationship between PCOS and diabetes?
We all need insulin to regulate our blood glucose levels. Insulin resistance occurs when the insulin made by your body doesn’t work as well as it should. Body cells also become less sensitive to insulin, so your pancreas needs to make more and more insulin to control your blood glucose levels.
Between 65 and 80 per cent of women with PCOS have insulin resistance.
Insulin resistance is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes, gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy) and pre-diabetes, so if you have PCOS you also have a greater risk of developing these.
Risks of high insulin levels
High insulin levels can cause blood lipid problems, such as low HDL-C (good cholesterol) and high triglycerides, as well as the overproduction of androgens (so-called ‘male’ hormones). This can lead to an increased risk of weight gain, heart disease and stroke.
How is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome treated?
The treatment of PCOS involves lifestyle changes which include regular physical activity, making healthier food choices and aiming for a healthy weight. A variety of medications can also be used to treat PCOS. Treatment of PCOS can also help with managing other risk factors like blood pressure and hormone levels.
Find out more about Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome by reading our helpful factsheet.