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Do You Have Pre-Diabetes? Most Americans Don't Know


A new study to be published in the April 2010 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that only about half of American adults with pre-diabetes, also known as borderline diabetes or insulin resistance, were actively trying to reduce their risk of developing full-blown diabetes. What’s worse is that about 90% of Americans who have pre-diabetes don’t even know they have it.

Researchers from the Division of Diabetes Translation of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Emory University, and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases reviewed survey data from just over 1400 adults who participated in the 2005-2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). The participants were also interviewed and given a glucose test to determine diabetic status.

The researchers found that in 2005, almost 30% of US adults over the age of 20 had pre-diabetes, but only 7.3% of those had been told of their condition. Less than half had even been given a test to check for high blood sugar in the past 3 years.

Before people develop Type 2 diabetes, they almost have a period of time where blood glucose levels are higher than normal, but not yet high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes – a condition now called “pre-diabetes.” Often there are no symptoms. It is diagnosed with a fasting plasma glucose test (FPG) or an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT). Pre-diabetes is confirmed when the FPG is between 100 and 126 or the OGTT is between 140 and 200. The American Diabetes Association estimates that there are 57 million Americans with this level of elevated blood sugar.

Those at increased risk for pre-diabetes include those who are overweight (BMI greater than 25), those who are sedentary, age 45 and older, those with family history of type 2 diabetes, certain ethnic groups including African Americans and Hispanics, and women who have developed gestational diabetes during pregnancy.

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Pre-diabetes is a serious medical condition that can, and should, be treated. Recent research from the ADA indicates that long-term damage is already occurring, even during the pre-diabetic state, particularly to the heart and circulatory system. Most patients can prevent the onset of full diabetes with some simple steps.

The Diabetes Prevention Program has shown that people with pre-diabetes can prevent Type 2 diabetes from occurring by changing their diet, increasing exercise, and achieving even a small amount of weight loss. Just 30 minutes a day of moderate physical activity coupled with a 5-10% reduction in weight has been shown to reduce diabetes by as much as 58%.

The American College of Endocrinology suggests the following measures to treat pre-diabetes:

* Eat healthy foods. Choose foods low in fat and calories and high in fiber. Focus on fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

* Get more physical activity. Aim for 30 to 60 minutes of moderate physical activity at least five days a week. If you can't fit in a long workout, break it up into smaller sessions spread throughout the day.

* Lose excess pounds. If you're overweight, losing just 5 to 10 percent of your body weight — only 10 to 20 pounds if you weigh 200 pounds — can reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.