Metabolic Syndrome and Prediabetes

One symptom of metabolic syndrome is an increased level of sugar (glucose) in the blood. This can also be a sign of prediabetes. When you have prediabetes, your risk of having full-blown diabetes increases. Your chance of developing heart disease and stroke also goes up. But you can help control and possibly reverse prediabetes by making some basic lifestyle changes.

When it’s prediabetes

Insulin is a hormone that helps cells turn glucose into energy. When the body’s cells don’t use insulin correctly, you have insulin resistance. It can cause glucose to build up in the blood.

The following tests are used to measure glucose levels and diagnose both prediabetes and diabetes:

  • Fasting glucose test. You have prediabetes if your fasting glucose result ranges from 100 to 125 mg/dL.

  • Glucose tolerance test. You have prediabetes if your glucose tolerance result ranges from 140 to 199 mg/dL 2 hours after drinking a special sugar drink. When this test is used for screening, be sure you have at least 5.25 ounces (150 grams) of carbohydrates per day for 3 days before the test.

  • A1C. The A1C test measures how high your blood glucose has been over the past few months. Prediabetes is diagnosed in adults when A1C levels are 5.7% to 6.4%. A normal level is less than 5.7% in adults.

What you can do

Many people with insulin resistance are overweight. They carry extra, dangerous fat around the waist. This belly fat is a source of inflammation that spreads all over the body. It leads to increased cardiovascular disease. Often people with insulin resistance don’t get enough exercise. They also often have a hard time controlling their cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood pressure. For people with metabolic syndrome, controlling these health issues is key to preventing diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.

Regular physical activity and weight loss can help improve the way your body uses insulin. That can help treat prediabetes. It may also reduce your diabetes risk. You may even be able to get your glucose level back into the normal range. The following tips can help:

  • Talk with your healthcare provider about starting an exercise routine.

  • Build up to moderate-intensity exercise for at least 150 minutes a week of physical activity. Or do 30 minutes of physical activity 3 to 5 days a week. Break the activity into 10-minute periods if that's easier for you. Don’t let more than 2 days go by without physical activity.

  • Break up long periods of sitting or inactivity with short sessions of light activity every 30 minutes.

  • If you’re overweight, aim to lose 5% to 7% of your body weight slowly. Ask your healthcare provider for a referral to a lifestyle intervention program. This will help you get to and maintain a 7% weight loss and increase your physical activity.

  • Eat your normal foods in smaller amounts.

  • Limit fat intake to less than 28% of your daily calories. Get healthy fats from plant sources, such as nuts. Eat little fat from animal meat. It's better to eat foods that have monounsaturated fats or polyunsaturated fats in them. Pass up foods with saturated or trans fats.

Also have your blood glucose and A1C rechecked at least once each year or as advised by your healthcare provider. This will let you know if it has changed.

Online Medical Reviewer: Marianne Fraser MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Raymond Kent Turley BSN MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Robert Hurd MD
Date Last Reviewed: 2/1/2023
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