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Prediabetes puts your health at risk, but reversing it is "very doable," experts say

Millions have prediabetes and don't know it
Millions of Americans have prediabetes and don't know it 03:59

Millions of Americans have prediabetes, a condition in which blood sugar is high, but not high enough to be type 2 diabetes. The condition is serious, and without intervention it can turn into type 2 diabetes.

However, that's not inevitable. Certain lifestyle changes, as well as medications, can bring blood sugar levels back to normal.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 1 out of 3 adults in the United States — approximately 84 million people — have prediabetes. Yet, 90 percent of those affected do not know they have it.

That's because a person can live with prediabetes for years but have no clear symptoms. The condition often goes undetected until more serious signs of type 2 diabetes begin to show.

Who's at risk for prediabetes?

Certain risk factor can put a person at an increased risk for prediabetes. These include:

  • Being overweight
  • Being 45 years or older
  • Having a family history of type 2 diabetes
  • Not being physically active
  • A history of gestational diabetes or giving birth to a baby who weighed more than 9 pounds
  • Having polycystic ovary syndrome

African Americans, Pacific Islanders, Hispanic/Latino Americans, Native Americans, and some Asian Americans are also at an increased risk of prediabetes.

The CDC recommends people with any of the risk factors for prediabetes talk to their doctor about being screened for the condition. A simple blood sugar test can determine if you have prediabetes.

"You need to be getting regular screenings," Dr. John Anderson, of HCA Healthcare's TriStar Centennial Medical Center in Nashville, told CBS News. "It really is a window of opportunity where people can identify being prediabetic and either probably have a chance to either markedly delay or actually prevent the progression to type 2 diabetes."

Reversing prediabetes

Fortunately prediabetes is reversible. Losing even a small amount of weight and getting regular exercise can lower the risk of going on to develop type 2 diabetes.

According to the CDC, losing just 5 to 7 percent of your body weight is enough to make a difference. 

"When we talk about a 5 to 7 percent weight loss, think about this: If you weigh 200 pounds, that's 10 to 14 pounds. That's very doable. That's not like you have to go out and lose 50 pounds. So this is something that we know our patients can achieve," Anderson said.

In addition to a healthy diet, Anderson said, "There's an exercise component… in the study they had people walking 30 minutes, five days a week. Again, a very achievable goal."

Managing stress and quitting tobacco can also help decrease your risk.

Finally, if you're at high risk of type 2 diabetes, your doctor may prescribe a medication like metformin, which treats high blood sugar levels. Medications to control cholesterol and high blood pressure may also be prescribed.

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