Ask Peggy

What is prediabetes?

DEAR PEGGY: What is "prediabetes" and how is it different from regular diabetes? —S.L., Switzerland, Florida

Having "prediabetes" basically means that you have blood glucose levels that are higher than normal but not high enough to rate as full-blown diabetes. Diabetes occurs when your body can't use the glucose that flows through your bloodstream after you eat.

Normally, your pancreas makes the hormone insulin to help your body's cells take in glucose and use it for energy. If your pancreas doesn't make enough insulin or if your body has developed insulin resistance and can't use the insulin it's produced, there will be too much glucose in your bloodstream, which can damage blood vessels and cause major organ and nerve problems.

The only way to find out if you're at risk is to get yourself tested. Your doctor will likely order a fasting-glucose test, which measures your blood glucose level after an overnight fast. A more thorough exam is the glucose-tolerance test, in which you consume a sugar solution and your blood is tested 2 hours later.

To prevent or reverse borderline diabetes, exercise for at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week. And, if you're overweight, be sure to drop some pounds. Even a loss of 10 or 15 pounds can make a difference.