Prediabetes A warning diagnosis to take seriously

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diabetesEven if your blood glucose levels don t indicate diabetes, that s no reason to ignore the possibility of developing this increasingly common disease. As Jane Brody points out in the New York Times, a blood glucose level above normal but not yet at diabetic levels can indicate that you re on the path to developing type 2 diabetes.

Even though this sounds like bad news, the upside is that forewarned is forearmed, and those in this prediabetic state can avoid progression to full-blown diabetes. How can this intervention be instituted? The usual answer is what one might expect avoiding obesity or reducing body weight, exercise, and attention to suggested dietary restrictions such as limiting starches and sugars, as well as pharmaceutical help in appropriate cases. And for the very obese, bariatric surgery could be a viable option.

Is it worth the effort? Well, diabetes is the number one cause of kidney failure, amputations, and blindness. Such complications may not show up until 20 years after the onset of the disease, thus avoiding true diabetes for as long as possible might also avoid these problems. Ms. Brody also cites a recent review of national data from 2000 through 2011 indicating that 40 percent of adults face a risk of developing diabetes. The risk was highest for Hispanic men and women, and non-Hispanic black women. This risk had increased by 20 and 13 percentage points for men and women respectively since 1985-1989.

Yet another analysis of recent data suggests that if the current rate of increase in diabetes continues, by 2050 about one-third of the US population will be diabetic. Such predictions do not bode well for the cost of health care in the US, since as a chronic disease, diabetes can require medical attention and treatment for decades.

ACSH s Dr. Ruth Kava comments This is a situation that can only be improved by motivating individuals to improve their lifestyles. The public health community should be emphasizing prevention for those with prediabetes, as well as treatment for individuals who already have the disease. However, treatment in this case is not as simple as taking a pill daily serious changes in exercise and eating habits may be required.