85 Percent of People With Prediabetes Have This in Common, CDC Says

This dangerous fact is true for the vast majority of prediabetics.

Prediabetes is a serious condition that currently affects roughly 88 million American adults—or one in three people. In those who have prediabetes, blood sugar levels are elevated above normal, yet not high enough to qualify as type 2 diabetes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns that prediabetes can lead to serious health complications over time. "Don't let the 'pre' fool you," warns the health authority. "It's real. It's common. And most importantly, it's reversible."

However, there's one hurdle that stands in the way of reversing the course of prediabetes—and it's a problem for 85 percent of people with the condition. Read on to find out the one thing the vast majority of people with prediabetes have in common—and how it may be hindering your health without you even knowing it.

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85 percent of people with prediabetes don't know they have it, the CDC warns.

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Though one in three people have the condition, "more than 84 percent of people with prediabetes don't know they have it," says the CDC. This means that only 15 percent of prediabetics are aware they have a problem, while the vast majority are unlikely to make changes that prevent the condition escalating to type 2 diabetes.

While the exact cause of prediabetes is unknown, family history and genetics may increase your odds of developing a blood sugar imbalance. Having excess fat around the abdomen, maintaining an unhealthy diet, and getting too little exercise also greatly increase your risk, experts say.

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Most people with prediabetes go on to develop diabetes.

Modern Senior woman doing Diabetes blood test at home

If you have prediabetes—and especially if you have it without knowing—research has found that there is a very high likelihood that you will go on to develop type 2 diabetes. In fact, a 2014 study published in the journal The Lancet noted that "up to 70 percent of individuals with prediabetes will eventually develop diabetes. In a Chinese diabetes prevention trial, the 20-year cumulative incidence of diabetes was even higher." The second study determined that 90 percent of prediabetics went on to develop diabetes, the researchers wrote.

Not only does prediabetes frequently lead to type 2 diabetes, the CDC warns that it also increases your risk of heart disease and stroke. "Over time, type 2 diabetes can affect nearly every major organ in your body, including the blood vessels, nerves, eyes, and kidneys. If left untreated, diabetes complications may be disabling or even life-threatening," adds the Mayo Clinic.

Prediabetes is reversible with the right intervention.

Woman doing an ab exercise workout in the living room

If you learn that you have prediabetes, the good news is that this condition is considered reversible. "Certain lifestyle changes can lower your blood sugar level and decrease your risk of developing diabetes. One key is getting to and maintaining a healthy weight," Michael Jensen, MD, a specialist in endocrinology, diabetes, and metabolism wrote for a Mayo Clinic Q&A.

Jensen adds that being overweight plays a significant role in the disease because "in people who are overweight, the body may need two to three times more insulin than it would at a healthy weight. When the pancreas tries to produce that much additional insulin, it can be pushed beyond its capacity, and insulin-producing cells start to die." By integrating a healthier diet, exercise, and in some cases, medication, you can greatly improve your outcome, experts say. "Controlling high blood pressure and high cholesterol can ease your risk of future disease, too," Jensen adds.

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If you're considered high risk, get screened for prediabetes.

Doctor talking to a senior patient at home

Because most people with prediabetes do not present with visible symptoms, it's important to get screened for the disease if you're considered high risk—regardless of how you feel.

"You can have prediabetes for years but have no clear symptoms, so it often goes undetected until serious health problems show up. That's why it's important to talk to your doctor about getting your blood sugar tested if you have any of the risk factors for prediabetes," says the CDC. Talk to your doctor about a screening if you are overweight, 45 years or older, have a parent, brother, or sister with type 2 diabetes, are physically active less than three times a week, or if you ever had gestational diabetes during pregnancy, the health authority recommends.

Finally, The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases adds that if your likelihood of prediabetes is high but the initial screening comes back normal, you may consider re-testing within a year in order to confirm your results. Every day counts when it comes to this condition—as the CDC stresses, it is precisely because of the "pre" that there's still time to turn things around.

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Lauren Gray
Lauren Gray is a New York-based writer, editor, and consultant. Read more
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