Prediabetes: Risk Factors and Symptoms


Prediabetes is characterized as elevated blood glucose levels, but not elevated enough to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes (T2D). Without intervention and lifestyle changes, prediabetes can progress to T2D. Knowing the risk factors associated with prediabetes can help you treat prediabetes and prevent or delay type 2 diabetes.

What are the Symptoms of Prediabetes?

Insulin resistance and prediabetes usually have no symptoms. People may have one or both conditions for several years without knowing they have them. Even without symptoms, health care providers can identify people at high risk based on known risk factors.

Risk Factors of Prediabetes

Similarly to type 2 diabetes, there isn’t one single cause for prediabetes. However, if you identify with these risk factors below, please contact your healthcare provider to be tested for prediabetes. Tests for prediabetes include an A1C test, an oral glucose tolerance test, and measuring fasting blood glucose.

Risk factors for prediabetes are:

  • Being physically inactive
  • Waist size and weight
  • Smoking
  • A diagnosis of cardiovascular disease (CVD)
  • History of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
  • A family history of type 2 diabetes—particularly a parent or a sibling
  • Giving birth to a baby weighing more than 9 pounds
  • History of gestational diabetes
  • High blood pressure—140/90 mmHg or above—or being treated for high blood pressure
  • HDL cholesterol level below 1.9 mmol/L35 mg/dL or a triglyceride level above 13.9 mmol/L250 mg/dL

People with a severe form of insulin resistance may have dark patches of skin, usually on the back of the neck. Sometimes people have a dark ring around their neck. Dark patches may also appear on elbows, knees, knuckles and armpits. This condition is called acanthosis nigricans.

Black/African-Americans, Alaska Natives, Native Americans, Asian-Americans, Hispanic/Latino and Pacific Islander-Americans are at a disproportionate risk of having prediabetes.

To learn more about your risk of prediabetes, take this risk test. However, please consult your healthcare provider in order to determine an official prediabetes or type 2 diabetes diagnosis.

At Risk for Prediabetes? Consider Participating in the National Diabetes Prevention Program

The CDC’s National Diabetes Prevention Program (NDPP) is designed to help people at risk for type 2 diabetes make lifestyle changes such as modifications in diet and exercise, and with the support of an NDPP-trained lifestyle coach. According to the CDC, people with prediabetes who lose from five-to-seven percent in body weight and 150 minutes of exercise per week can significantly lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. With this program, at-risk individuals can reduce their risks of developing T2D by 58 percent over a period of 3 years, in general, and by 71 percent if you’re older than 60 years old.

How Often to Get Tested for Prediabetes

Catching prediabetes early gives people time to make lifestyle changes, prevent diabetes, and other adverse health outcomes. Health care providers may recommend more frequent testing depending on initial results and risk status. When deciding when you should get screened for prediabetes, the American Diabetes Association recommends the following guidelines:

  • Screenings should begin at age 45 years old.
  • Tests for prediabetes and type 2 diabetes should be done in adults, regardless of age, who are overweight or obese.
  • Have one or more additional risk factors for diabetes.
  • If the tests results are normal, screenings should be done at least every three years.
  • In children older than age 10 or after the onset of puberty, whichever occurs earlier, children who are overweight or obese should be screened for prediabetes and diabetes.
  • Children who have risk factors for diabetes and prediabetes should be also be screened.

In addition to weight, the location of excess fat on the body can be important. A waist measurement of 40 inches or more for men and 35 inches or more for women is linked to insulin resistance and increases a person’s risk for type 2 diabetes. This is true even if a person’s body mass index (BMI) falls within the normal range

Remember, a prediabetes diagnosis is the opportunity delay or prevent type 2 diabetes. With your healthcare team, you can make the changes necessary to decrease your risks of developing T2D. Knowing the risk factors associated with prediabetes is an essential step towards that.

For more information about prediabetes and type 2 diabetes prevention, visit the Association of Diabetes Care and Education Specialists’ website.

This content was produced in partnership with the Association of Diabetes Care and Education Specialists (ADCES), a Founding Partner of Beyond Type 2. 

This content mentions ADCES, an active partner of Beyond Type 1.
News coverage by the Beyond Type 1 team is operated independently from any content partnerships. Beyond Type 1 maintains full editorial control of all content published on our platforms.

WRITTEN BY T'ara Smith, MS, Nutrition Education, POSTED 01/04/18, UPDATED 12/11/22

T’ara was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in July 2017 at the age of 25. Since her diagnosis, she focused her academic studies and career on diabetes awareness and living a full life with it. She’s excited to have joined the Beyond Type 1 team to continue her work. Two years later, T'ara discovered she'd been misdiagnosed with type 2 and actually has latent autoimmune diabetes in adults (LADA). Outside the office, T’ara enjoys going to the movies, visiting parks with her dog, listening to BTS and cooking awesome healthy meals. T’ara holds an MS in Nutrition Education from American University.