Understanding Prediabetes

March 1, 2022

Prediabetes can be thought of as an “early warning sign” that a person is at risk of developing type 2 diabetes. However, the good news is, diagnosing prediabetes also gives us a chance to prevent it from developing into type 2 diabetes. Read on for some facts on prediabetes and what you can do to decrease your risks.

What is Prediabetes?

Almost 6 million Canadians have prediabetes, and many of them don’t know they have it. Prediabetes refers to blood sugar levels that are higher than normal, but not high enough to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes. If left unmanaged, prediabetes can develop into type 2 diabetes – but there are multiple ways to prevent this and change your future.

Insulin is a hormone found in our body that helps control sugar levels in the blood. Prediabetes means that the body has become less sensitive to insulin and must work harder to keep blood sugar levels in range. The buildup of sugar in the blood may cause complications such as heart disease and stroke, nerve damage, vision problems, as well as kidney damage.

Adults 40 and older should be screened every 3 years. If you have already been diagnosed with prediabetes, you should be tested every year. Your doctor will order a blood sugar test to confirm the diagnosis.

Who is at risk of developing prediabetes?

Many people don’t know they have prediabetes because symptoms develop gradually. Some things to watch out for include:

  • frequent urination
  • constant thirst
  • constant fatigue
  • blurred vision
  • cuts and bruises that are slow to heal
  • frequent infections
  • tingling or numbness in your hands or feet

Risk factors for developing prediabetes include family member with diabetes or having an ethnic background of African, Arab, Asian, Hispanic, Indigenous, or South Asian descent. Also, women who have had high blood sugar during pregnancy are at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.

People that are extremely overweight or obese are also at risk, especially individuals carrying extra weight around their mid-section. This is because carrying extra body fat inhibits the effects of insulin.

What can you do?

The good news is that many cases of type 2 diabetes can be prevented. Some ways to reduce risk include:

  • following a healthy diet
  • exercising regularly
  • losing weight

Making healthy changes will take time and that’s okay. Start with small changes and make it into a habit. If you haven’t been physically active, start with a short 10-minute walk three times a week and gradually increase the length and frequency.  Diabetes Canada recommends aerobic activity for a total of at least 150 minutes per week and resistance exercise 3 times a week. Consult your health care provider before starting an exercise program. Also consider a qualified exercise specialist before beginning resistance exercises and start slowly.

Look for ways to make healthy diet choices by choosing water over sugary drinks, cooking more meals at home, adding more vegetables and whole grain foods to your plate, eat “good” fats as well as being mindful of portion size. For assistance, book a Save-On-Foods nutrition tour with our registered dietitians for tips and information on general healthy eating.

Research has shown that by losing 5-10% of total body weight (if you’re overweight) will make a huge difference. That is because fatty tissue can make cells more resistant to insulin and consequently increase blood sugar levels. Losing 1-2 pounds per week is ideal and the two most important things for weight loss is permanent changes in eating habit as well as regular exercise.

Smokers are 30-40% more likely to develop diabetes. Pick a quite date, gather a support team, know your smoking cues, think through barriers, and speak to your Save-On-Foods pharmacist for smoking cessation guidance. Remember, every small effort counts and will make a difference over time!

Talk to our Certified Diabetes Educator

See our Certified Diabetes Educator at select Save-On-Foods Pharmacy locations for a personalized risk assessment and guidance on ways to help reduce your risk of prediabetes.


Prediabetes – Diabetes Canada

Impaired Glucose Tolerance – MedBroadcast.com

Reduce Your Type 2 Diabetes Risk – MedBroadcast.com