Home Sponsored Small lifestyle changes are having a big impact on prediabetes

Small lifestyle changes are having a big impact on prediabetes


More than 88 million Americans have prediabetes. That’s about one-third of adults in the U.S.—and as common as it is, more than four out of five people with prediabetes don’t know they have it. 

“Just like the rest of the country, prediabetes is a major concern in Wisconsin,” said Mary Pesik, RDN, CD, Chronic Disease Prevention Unit Supervisor with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, Division of Public Health. “More than 34 percent of Wisconsin’s adult population has prediabetes, and waiting too long to address this condition is having life-long health effects for so many people in our state.” 

Mary Pesik.

Prediabetes is a serious health condition when blood glucose, or blood sugar, levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be considered diabetes. However, prediabetes greatly increases your chances for more serious complications like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, end-stage kidney disease, blindness—and even death.

The challenge with prediabetes is that it doesn’t always show signs or symptoms. It can go undetected for years until more severe health problems appear. This makes it all the more important to learn the risks. 

Risk factors for prediabetes

If you have one or more of the following characteristics, you may be at higher risk for developing prediabetes and, eventually, type 2 diabetes:

  • Being overweight
  • Being 45 or older
  • Having a parent, brother, or sister with type 2 diabetes
  • Physically active less than three times per week
  • Ever having gestational diabetes or giving birth to a baby who weighed more than 9 pounds
  • Having polycystic ovary syndrome
  • Having high blood pressure
  • Being a man
  • Belonging to certain racial or ethnic groups, including African American, Latinx American, American Indian, Pacific Islander, and some Asian American communities
  • Experiencing trauma, abuse, or neglect during childhood 

If you’re worried that you may be at risk for prediabetes or type 2 diabetes, don’t wait—take the American Diabetes Association’s one-minute risk test.

“Through our work at the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, we’ve made a huge effort to stress that ‘pre’ means ‘now’ with prediabetes,” Pesik said. “The name itself seems to imply that people with this condition are still ok, but the fact is, they may already have real damage to their hearts and kidneys. The good news is prediabetes can be prevented and even reversed—and help is available through the National Diabetes Prevention Program (DDP) lifestyle change program.”

Early kidney damage might not show any overt symptoms, making it even more crucial for those with prediabetes to be proactive about their health. Routine tests, such as the urine albumin test or the estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR), can help in early detection of kidney damage. High levels of albumin, a protein, in the urine is a hallmark sign that kidneys aren’t filtering as effectively as they should. On the other hand, a lower eGFR indicates reduced kidney function, in such extreme cases, hemodialysis services may be needed.

The National DPP lifestyle change program is offered through Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)-recognized organizations throughout Wisconsin. This evidence-based program is designed to help participants make positive lifestyle changes such as eating healthier, reducing stress, and getting more physical activity. Many organizations in Wisconsin offer free or low-cost programs that are available in-person, online, or through distance learning.

The program includes at least 16 weekly sessions and then a few monthly check-ins to track goals and get support. Participants learn from a CDC-approved curriculum with lessons, handouts, and other resources to help them make healthy, manageable changes that fit their lifestyle—all guided by a trained lifestyle coach. Programs also include a support group of people with similar goals and challenges. 

“That’s really what makes these programs so unique,” Pesik said. “Lifestyle change programs allow participants to work together and share ideas, celebrate successes, and overcome obstacles. Making any type of change can be challenging, but knowing you’re not alone and having support from people going through the same thing really goes a long way towards their success.” 

Lifestyle change programs have proven that small changes lead to big results. Research shows that people with prediabetes who participate in the program can reduce their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by more than half. In addition, lifestyle change programs have been shown to improve heart health, reduce the risk of a stroke, reduce stress, and improve participants’ overall health and well-being.

“Our goal is to help people understand that if they have, or are at risk of, prediabetes—they really can take control of their health and that they’re not alone,” Pesik said. “Lifestyle change programs truly give people the tools and support they need to make small changes that have a big impact on their health.”

Take the next step. If you’d like to learn more about a lifestyle change program, or locate one in your area, go to PreventDiabetesWI.org