According to The New York Times, 79 million Americans over age 20 have prediabetes. If you're one of them and you know it, that's good news - the vast majority of people with prediabetes are not aware they have the condition. This is part of the reason 70 percent of Americans with prediabetes will go on to develop Type 2 diabetes. As the Times points out, even having the moderately elevated blood glucose levels that indicate prediabetes could cause serious damage to the body over time. These results aren’t inevitable, however, and there are things you can do to prevent the development of diabetes once you are aware of having prediabetes.

What exactly is prediabetes?

Prediabetes is a condition in which your blood glucose levels are higher than normal but lower than the levels seen in diabetic people. You may hear your doctor refer to impaired glucose tolerance or impaired fasting glucose as well, which are terms that refer to how you were tested to determine you have prediabetes. Without these tests, it is nearly impossible to know whether you have prediabetes. There are no concrete symptoms, though you may already experience some diabetes symptoms.

The first order of business when you learn you have prediabetes is to be tested regularly for diabetes. The second is to reduce your risk.

You may wish to view your diagnosis of prediabetes as a sign that something in your lifestyle needs to change. This can be more motivating than seeing it as a sentence that dooms you to ill health - which it is not. Here are some changes you can make that can help improve your future.

Weight loss

Research has shown that losing 7 percent of your body weight may reduce your risk of Type 2 diabetes by 58 percent, according to the American Diabetes Association. To put this in perspective, this means 15 pounds of weight loss if you weigh 200 pounds. For most people, this is an achievable goal. Talk to your doctor about the healthiest and safest ways to lose weight, and the time frame you should follow. For most people, a loss of about a pound a week is reasonable and sustainable, so you should not expect to drop 7 percent of your starting weight in a couple weeks. It is just as important to keep this weight off as it is to lose it, so don't worry if you seem to be taking it particularly slowly. As you know, diet and exercise are both important for weight loss.

Physical activity

Just 30 minutes of moderate exercise five days a week may decrease your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. This could simply be a quick walk after dinner, perhaps with a family member or your dog, every weekday. It's a small change, and it's one you can definitely manage - but it may work wonders on your health.

Other treatment options

Some people who have prediabetes are on diabetes medication, monitor their blood glucose closely, or both. Talk to your doctor about whether these options are appropriate for you. Adhering to the care plan you and your doctor put together is the best thing you can do for yourself as you work to prevent prediabetes from becoming Type 2 diabetes. Review it with your doctor periodically so adjustments can be made when needed. It's best to be very serious about medication compliance and blood sugar monitoring if these things are prescribed to you.

For more on prediabetes:

Prediabetes: Definition
Prediabetes: Symptoms
Prediabetes: Causes