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Pre-diabetes

Pre-diabetes is a condition where the amount of glucose (sugar) in the blood is higher than normal, but is not high enough for you to have a diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes. Pre-diabetes is the stage before a diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes.

Pre-diabetes is very treatable, but should be taken seriously. People with pre-diabetes have a high risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

If pre-diabetes is taken seriously, Type 2 diabetes can often be prevented or delayed. Being active, losing weight if you're overweight and eating healthy food can all make a huge difference.

Symptoms, risks and diagnosis

Many people have pre-diabetes without realising it because they do not have signs or symptoms. High blood glucose levels can develop gradually over time without you noticing. If you have any of the signs or symptoms of high blood glucose you may already have Type 2 diabetes.

The earlier pre-diabetes is diagnosed the better. Early treatment reduces your risk of going on to develop Type 2 diabetes and other health problems.

Read more about the signs and symptoms of Type 2 diabetes.

Risks

The risks for developing pre-diabetes are the same risks as those for Type 2 diabetes.

You're more at risk of pre-diabetes if you:

  • are over 45
  • have a close relative with diabetes such as a parent, brother or sister
  • are an adult who is overweight or obese. Check your Body Mass Index (BMI)
  • had gestational diabetes during pregnancy
  • are physically inactive - for example, if you take less than 30 minutes of physical activity 5 days per week
  • have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, low HDL cholesterol or high triglycerides
  • have a history of heart disease
  • have a medical condition that requires long-term steroid use
  • are a member of the travelling community
  • are of south Asian, Chinese, Hispanic, African Caribbean or black African origin
  • have haemochromatosis - storing too much iron in your body
  • are a woman with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)

Calculate your Body Mass Index (BMI) on the Safefood website or ask your GP or practice nurse to measure it for you.

Diagnosis

See a GP if you have any symptoms of diabetes or you're worried you may have a risk of getting it. They can do a blood test to check your blood glucose levels. It usually takes a few days for the results to come back.

The results of your test will show whether you have 'no diabetes', 'pre-diabetes' or 'Type 2 diabetes'.

What your GP or practice nurse will discuss with you will depend on:

If you’re diagnosed with pre-diabetes, your GP will generally talk to you about:

  • what pre-diabetes is and what it means for your health
  • your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and your role in trying to prevent or delay it
  • what high blood glucose levels means for your health
  • treatments such as diet, physical activity and weight loss if needed
  • medicines that may be needed to treat any other risks you may have for example, high cholesterol or high blood pressure
  • your lifestyle choices, such as smoking and drinking alcohol

Treatment

If you have a diagnosis of pre-diabetes, act now to help delay and prevent developing Type 2 diabetes. To treat pre-diabetes, try to:

  • Be more active and reduce long periods of time sitting
  • Lose weight if overweight
  • Eat healthy food
  • Have check-ups as advised by your GP or practice nurse

Download our booklet Living well with Pre-diabetes (PDF, 1.7MB, 24 pages)

Be more active

Being active brings big benefits to treating diabetes and protecting your health. It can lower your blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol and manage weight.

Read more about being active

Losing weight

If you have a diagnosis of pre-diabetes it is really important to check if you are overweight. Putting on extra weight (body fat) and being inactive are a major cause of developing pre-diabetes and Type 2 diabetes. Losing weight is a key part of treatment.

Check your Body Mass Index (BMI)

Calculate your Body Mass Index (BMI) online with your height and weight to check how healthy your weight is for your height, or ask your GP or practice nurse to measure it for you.

Use the BMI calculator on the Safe Food website

Check your Waist Size

Even if your BMI is not too high, also check your waist size to see if you are carrying any excess weight around the tummy area. Carrying a lot of weight (body fat) around your tummy can affect the way some organs work and greatly increases your risk of developing diabetes. These organs are your pancreas and liver.

Your risk of developing health problems such as diabetes increases if

  • you are a man and your waist size is 94cm (37 inches) or more, (90cm or 35 inches or more if you are a man of Asian descent)
  • you are a woman and your waist size is 80cm (31.5 inches) or more.

If you are overweight or carrying weight around the tummy area:

  • try to avoid gaining any more weight
  • look at what changes you could make to your diet
  • consider writing down what you eat and drink for a day or two to help identify possible changes you could make
  • consider weighing yourself once a week to help keep you focused and monitor your progress - a good time is first thing in the morning, with no shoes and in light or no clothing.
  • remember, no matter what your weight, being more active- brings major benefits
  • once you lose weight, keeping it off is the key.

Losing 7 to 10 per cent of your body weight and keeping it off may help prevent or delay developing Type 2 diabetes.

Download our leaflet on Healthy Food for Life (PDF, 1.5kb, 7 pages) which includes top tips for overweight adults to get to a healthy weight.

For advice and support, visit the Safe Food website and the RTE operation transformation website

Eat healthy food

Choosing a healthy diet and learning how carbohydrates affect your blood glucose level can help in preventing Type 2 diabetes.

Read more about healthy eating.

page last reviewed: 12/11/2020
next review due: 12/11/2023

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