The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that a third of the U.S. population is prediabetic.

Prediabetes is a condition when all of the wrong pieces are in place that can lead to the development of type 2 diabetes if changes in diet and exercise aren't made. The problem is that only 11 percent of people who have prediabetes know it.

Julie Phelps, a 55 year old from St. Louis, was one of those women. Luckily, she discovered she had the condition in 2013 thanks to a free diabetes screening program offered by her job. At that time, her health numbers looked pretty nasty—high cholesterol, high triglycerides, and more. She was 258 pounds at 5 feet, 3 inches tall.

"I was eating junk food and not exercising," Phelps told St. Louis Today. "I used to eat an entire bag of potato chips—a big bag—while I was watching 'Biggest Loser.' My doctor said if I don't start exercising and eating better, I'd develop diabetes."

So she joined a YMCA diabetes prevention program and lost 111 pounds. Today, her health numbers are normal, and she's not taking any diabetes medications. Phelps said she still eats healthful meals and exercises 150 minutes a week.

"Even a seven percent loss of body weight can improve health and make diabetes less of a threat," explained Joyce Hoth, community health director of the YMCA of the Greater St. Louis Area. The CDC inaugurated the YMCA diabetes program years ago with a $90,000 grant to combat the diabetes problem.

Diabetes persists for a number of reasons. Cutting down on junk food, stepping up your workout regimen, and talking to your doctor about useful resources are great places to start if you have prediabetes.

For those who have diabetes, these same recommendations may improve diabetes control.

If you're worried about your children, take a slice of advice from Phelps' story. Being overweight has a lot to do with lifestyle choices. Eating too much and exercising too little puts people on the path for the disease, and these values are passed down from parents to children. Help children reroute their path if necessary by adjusting your personal eating and exercise habits and encouraging these same habits in your children.

To learn more about prediabetes:

5 Tips to Take Action Against Pre-Diabetes
Coffee May Help Prevent Type 2 Diabetes

Sources:

http://www.stltoday.com/lifestyles/health-med-fit/health/diabetes-screening-allows-woman-to-change-her-life/article_582dcbb6-137b-5d68-a7eb-7dc9f317f49c.html

http://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/prevention/prediabetes.htm