Two million Australians are believed to have pre-diabetes. If left untreated, it may develop into type 2 diabetes in 5 to 10 years.

Pre-diabetes is a condition that occurs when your blood glucose level is higher than normal, but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes.

It is caused by insulin resistance – when the body’s insulin is not working effectively.

Pre-diabetes increases the incidence of cardiovascular disease, which can lead to heart attack and stroke. 

There are two pre-diabetes conditions and having either condition can increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes:

Impaired Glucose Tolerance (IGT)

IGT occurs when the blood glucose level is higher than normal after meals, but not to the level to be diagnosed with diabetes.

Impaired Fasting Glucose (IFG)

IFG occurs when the fasting blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not to the level to be diagnosed with diabetes.

It is possible to have both impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) and impaired fasting glucose (IFG).

Why is pre-diabetes a concern?

Pre-diabetes increases the risk of cardiovascular (heart and blood vessel) disease which may lead to heart attack and stroke.

Two out of three people at risk can prevent or delay the onset of diabetes by making positive lifestyle changes such as increasing physical activity and choosing healthy foods and drinks.

How is pre-diabetes diagnosed?

Pre-diabetes is diagnosed from the results of an oral glucose tolerance test, which is ordered by a doctor and performed at a pathology laboratory.

The test involves a blood sample being taken before and two hours after a glucose drink has been consumed. 

Risk factors for pre-diabetes

Risk factors for pre-diabetes are similar to those for type 2 diabetes and include:

  • Being overweight – especially those who have excess weight around the waistline (that is more than 94cm for men and more than 80cm for women).
  • Being physically inactive.
  • Having high blood pressure.
  • Having high blood lipids (high triglycerides and/or high total cholesterol) or low good cholesterol (HDL-C).
  • Having a family history or type 2 diabetes and/or heart disease.

Other people at risk include:

  • Women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome.
  • Women who have had diabetes in pregnancy (gestational diabetes) or given birth to a big baby (more than 4.5kg).
  • Those from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander background.
  • Those from certain ethnic backgrounds such as the Pacific Islands, Asia and the Indian sub-continent.

How is pre-diabetes treated?

Treatment for pre-diabetes requires the same lifestyle changes recommended for people with diabetes.

This includes regular physical activity, healthy eating and weight loss if necessary.

  • Healthy eating – a healthy eating plan encourages regular meals and snacks (if required) based on foods high in fibre, low in fat (particularly saturated fat) and low in sodium. This involves eating a variety of foods from all core food groups including fruits, vegetables, wholegrain breads and cereals, low fat dairy foods and lean meats and meat alternatives such as legumes and eggs.
  • An accredited practising dietitian can assist with developing an individualised meal plan. To find a dietitian in your area, contact: Diabetes SA on 1300 198 204
  • Service 1 on 1 consultations
  • Physical activity – regular physical activity assists the body to use insulin more effectively, and promotes overall good health.

Just diagnosed? Here’s how we can help.

We’re here to give you all the support you need.

Talk to one of our health professionals by calling 1300 198 204.

Arrange a face-to-face consultation by calling 1300 198 204.

Become a member of Diabetes SA.

Explore our resources available for download or call us for a hard copy.