Understanding Prediabetes: Causes and Risk Factors Explained

Prediabetes is a growing concern worldwide, affecting millions of people who may not even be aware of their condition. In this article, we’ll delve into the causes and risk factors of prediabetes, and offer tips on how to mitigate your risk. Understanding prediabetes is the first step to preventing it from developing into type 2 diabetes.

What is Prediabetes?

Prediabetes is a condition where blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not high enough yet to be classified as type 2 diabetes. It’s a critical health warning, signaling that you’re on the path to diabetes unless you make necessary lifestyle changes.

Causes of Prediabetes

There isn’t one single cause of prediabetes, but a combination of various factors that can increase your risk. These factors include:

Insulin Resistance

The primary cause of prediabetes is insulin resistance. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that allows your cells to use the sugar from your blood for energy. When your cells become resistant to insulin, your pancreas tries to compensate by producing more insulin. Eventually, it can’t keep up, and sugar builds up in your bloodstream, leading to prediabetes.

Genetic Factors

Your genes play a significant role in your risk for prediabetes. If you have a family history of diabetes, you’re more likely to develop prediabetes

Hormonal Changes

Certain conditions that disrupt hormone levels can increase the risk of prediabetes. For example:

  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS): This condition, characterized by irregular menstrual cycles and excess hair growth, has been linked with insulin resistance.
  • Sleep Disorders: Obstructive sleep apnea can also lead to insulin resistance.

Risk Factors for Prediabetes

Understanding the risk factors for prediabetes is crucial for prevention. Here are some of the most significant risks:

Being Overweight

Excess weight is one of the strongest risk factors for developing prediabetes. The more fatty tissue you have, especially around your abdomen, the more resistant your cells become to insulin.


A sedentary lifestyle contributes to prediabetes. Physical activity helps you control your weight, uses up glucose as energy, and makes your cells more sensitive to insulin.


Your risk of prediabetes increases as you get older, especially after age 45. This might be due to the fact that people tend to exercise less, lose muscle mass, and gain weight as they age.

Family History

If you have a parent or sibling with type 2 diabetes, your risk of prediabetes increases.

Race and Ethnicity

Although it’s unclear why, people of certain races — including African-Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, Asian-Americans, and Pacific Islanders — are more likely to develop prediabetes.

Gestational Diabetes

If you developed gestational diabetes while you were pregnant, you and your child are at higher risk of developing prediabetes. Having a baby who weighed more than 9 pounds also increases your risk.

Preventing Prediabetes

Preventing prediabetes is possible with some practical lifestyle changes:

Healthy Eating

A diet full of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains can help maintain a healthy weight and reduce your risk of prediabetes.

Exercise Regularly

Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity each week. Include muscle-strengthening exercises at least two times a week.

Lose Excess Weight

If you’re overweight, losing as little as 5-7% of your body weight can significantly reduce your risk of developing prediabetes.

Regular Monitoring

If you have risk factors for prediabetes, get your blood sugar checked regularly. Early detection can help you manage and reverse the condition before it progresses to type 2 diabetes.


Prediabetes is a serious health condition, but it’s also a reversible one if caught in time. By understanding the causes and risk factors, you can take proactive steps to prevent it. Prioritize a healthy lifestyle to not only reduce your risk of prediabetes but also improve your overall well-being.