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Definition of Pre-Diabetes

written by: Bobby Mathew • edited by: lrohner • updated: 1/15/2011

Every year in America, over a million people are diagnosed with pre-diabetes. Pre-diabetes is a precursor to full-blown diabetes. To get a better understanding of pre-diabetes it helps to have a standard pre-diabetes definition.

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    Roughly 57 million people in the United States have pre-diabetes. Most people will experience pre-diabetes before they experience full-blown diabetes.

    Pre-diabetes is a condition where glucose levels are elevated higher than normal, but not high enough to indicate diabetes in a person. This is the most basic pre-diabetes definition.

    The question remains, at what point is it just high enough to be considered pre-diabetes? There are three main tests that you can take to find out if you are pre-diabetic, and the numbers associated with their results will give you a better understanding of the pre-diabetes definition medical professionals go by today.

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    Diagnostic Criteria for Pre-diabetes

    Three main tests used to determine if a person is pre-diabetic are:

    • The A1C test - A1C tests can determine your average blood sugar over a period of a few weeks and even months. If your average blood sugar measures above 5.7% but below 6.4%, you are considered pre-diabetic based on the American Diabetes Association diagnostic criteria.
    • The Fasting Plasma Glucose Test (FPG) - A fasting plasma glucose test measures your blood sugar after an overnight fast. If your fasting plasma glucose is between 100 mg/dl to 126 mg/dl, you are considered pre-diabetic based on the American Diabetes Association diagnostic criteria.
    • The Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (OGTT) - The oral glucose tolerance test measures your blood sugar after the ingestion of a sugary substance. If your blood sugar during an oral glucose tolerance test peaks between 140 mg/dl and 200 mg/dl, you are considered pre-diabetic, based on the American Diabetes Association diagnostic criteria.

    With these tests you can determine whether or not your body metabolizes carbohydrates normally with fair accuracy.

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    Other Things to Keep in Mind

    It's important to note that pre-diabetes affects people of all races and all age groups. Nonetheless, certain groups of people are more susceptible to becoming pre-diabetic and eventually diabetic. In addition to members of the aged population, African Americans, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, Latinos, and Native Americans are at a higher risk of developing this condition. If you fall into any of these age groups, it's important that you get tested and adopt a lifestyle that can prevent pre-diabetes or reverse the condition if you have it.

    There are many things you can do to maintain normal blood sugar. Diet and exercise are a good start; in fact, these two lifestyle modifications might be all you need to prevent or control pre-diabetes. Often times when patients are first diagnosed with pre-diabetes or diabetes, the doctor recommends diet and exercise. Another important aspect of the prevention and reversal of pre-diabetes is weight loss. Body fat, especially around the midsection is correlated with your insulin's ability to effectively remove sugar from your blood.

    It's also important to keep in mind that the pre-diabetes definition is always changing. In the past, what was considered normal blood sugar is now either the diagnostic criteria for pre-diabetes or diabetes. Newer guidelines for the diagnosis of pre-diabetes allows people to detect the early signs of full-blown diabetes and helps prevent them from developing it in the future.