Most people know that diabetes has reached epidemic proportions in the United States. But there's less awareness about prediabetes, a condition that frequently precedes diabetes. With prediabetes, a person's blood glucose levels are higher than normal, but not yet elevated enough to qualify as diabetes.
Prediabetes may affect 79 million people in the United States, according to the American Diabetes Association. In most cases, people experience no symptoms and don't even know they have the condition.
While prediabetes often goes undetected, it carries real threats. Studies have shown that many people with the condition will develop type 2 diabetes within 10 years. And many with prediabetes are likely to suffer the harmful health consequences of diabetes, such as a higher risk of heart problems and cardiovascular disease.
Since prediabetes has no symptoms, who should be tested? Generally, people age 45 & older who are overweight should be checked at their annual medical exam. Those 45 & older who are not overweight should ask their physicians whether testing is appropriate.
Testing may also be recommended for adults of any age who have other risk factors for diabetes or prediabetes, including a family history of diabetes,low HDL cholesterol,high triglycerides, high blood pressure, or a history of gestational diabetes.
Depending on every patient's health profile & other risk factors for diabetes,physicians may recommend additional treatments to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, such as treating high blood pressure and/ or high cholesterol.
Prediabetes is diagnosed through blood tests that measure the level of glucose, or sugar, in the blood. Two require fasting for at least eight hours before testing to ensure glucose levels aren't affected by food or drink.
The fasting plasma glucose test (FPG) measures glucose first thing in the morning. A normal fasting blood glucose level is below 100 milligrams (mg) per deciliter (dl). The oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) measures blood glucose once after fasting and again a few hours later after the patient drinks a special high-glucose beverage. Two hours after the drink, normal blood glucose levels are below 140 mg/dl.
The non-fasting HbAlc test measures average blood glucose contro over the past two to three months. It is determined by measuring the percentage of glycated hemoglobin, or HbAlc, in the blood; a value less than 5.7 percent is normal.
Fortunately, a prediabetes diagnosis does not mean that developing diabetes is inevitable. Prediabetes is a treatable condition & even small lifestyle changes can make a big difference.
The recent Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) study sponsored by the National Institutes of Health found that a body weight loss of 5% to 7% helped people with prediabetes delay or prevent the onset of diabetes. This modest weight loss, along with 30 minutes a day of moderate physical activity, like walking, reduced the development of diabetes by 58%.
Moreover, the DPP found that weight loss was more effective than some medications in warding off diabetes. Some patients have even seen their blood glucose levels return to normal levels as a result of this treatment.
E Health, San Diego Union Tribune
13 September 2011