Pre-Diabetes A Health Warning, Experts Say
Federal Health Officials Begin New Prevention
Forty-one million Americans have blood sugar levels high
enough to put them at risk of developing diabetes - more than
twice the previous estimate.
The new number means two of every five adults ages 40 to 74
is now considered to have pre-diabetes, the US
Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
"These latest numbers show how urgent the problem really
is," says HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson. "We
need to help Americans take steps to prevent diabetes or we
will risk being overwhelmed by the health and economic
consequences of an ever-growing diabetes epidemic."
About 18 million people in the US have diabetes, with 1.3
million new cases diagnosed every year.
Most people have type 2 diabetes, which is a result of the
body's inability to make enough, or to properly use, insulin.
Insulin is a hormone manufactured by the pancreas, which helps
glucose leave the blood and enter the muscles and other
tissues of the body.
Diabetes is a leading cause of heart disease, blindness,
kidney failure and amputations, causing more than 200,000
deaths in the US every year.
Pre-diabetes "puts someone at risk not only of diabetes but
also of heart attack and stroke," says Dr. Linda S. Geiss,
chief of diabetes surveillance at the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
There are no agreed-upon estimates of the percentage of
people with pre-diabetes who will develop the full-blown
disease, Dr. Geiss says. But it is known that "taking
preventive measures can return a pre-diabetic person to
normal," she says. Those measures include proper nutrition and
Pre-diabetes can be diagnosed by the "impaired glucose
tolerance" test, which measures blood sugar levels before
eating anything in the morning.
Until last November, a level below 110 milligrams of
glucose per deciliter of blood was described as normal. The
new guideline lowers the bar, so a reading of 100 or higher
classifies someone as pre-diabetic.
The new estimate comes from applying that standard to data
from the latest National Health and Nutrition
Examination Survey, Dr. Geiss said.
The American Diabetes Association (ADA) is
using the new guideline to call for what it says are
relatively simple lifestyle changes to reduce the risk of
"The biggest drivers include the high prevalence of
obesity, which in turn is driven by exercise habits and diet
habits," says Dr. Gene Barrett, president of the ADA
and professor of medicine at the University of Virginia.
Adults should be doing the minimum amount of exercise
recommended by many health organizations - 30 minutes of
moderate activity at least three days a week, Dr. Barrett
says. They also should avoid "high-calorie, high-density
foods," he said.
Parents also should be looking after their children, with
an eye not only toward having them exercise regularly but also
"the easy availability of soft drinks and fast foods in school
meal programs," Dr. Barrett said.
Losing just 5 percent of body weight - 10 pounds for a
200-pound adult - can move someone out of the pre-diabetic
state into better health, he says.
Always consult your physician for more information.