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Health Q&A: What does pre-diabetes mean?

Dr Mark Porter / 17 July 2019

Dr Mark Porter addresses a reader’s concern about borderline blood sugar levels.

Pre-diabetes risk factors

Q: What is the significance of pre-diabetes? My practice nurse has told me I have borderline blood sugar levels that put me in this category and that, to avoid developing Type-2 diabetes, I should lose weight.

A: Type-2 diabetes is typically lifestyle-related. A combination of poor diet and being overweight, particularly in people who are genetically susceptible (such as those with a family history of the condition) can overwhelm an ageing pancreas’ ability to regulate blood sugar. 

There is now a much wider understanding that warning signs of Type-2 diabetes can precede diagnosis by a decade or more. Millions of adults in the UK have borderline sugar levels (42-47mmol/litre using the HBA1c blood test) that suggest they have pre-diabetes.

It makes you sound as if you are ill, but you are not. It is just a heads-up that there is trouble on the horizon unless you make lifestyle changes such as losing weight, eating fewer carbohydrates and taking more exercise.

If you are already doing all of the above, then there isn’t much else you can do. You may never develop diabetes, but most people with pre-diabetes eventually do – around 10% convert within 12 months and most within a decade.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.