In the U.S., 1 in 4 people has prediabetes. Of this number, nearly 90 percent are unaware they have it and are in danger of developing Type 2 diabetes. A simple
online test can identify those at risk.
Diabetes is a debilitating chronic disease that can lead to heart disease, kidney disease and blindness if left untreated. Lifestyle modifications and medications can stop or delay the progression of diabetes and can even prevent it, said Dr. Steven Kahn, UW professor of medicine, Division of Metabolism, Endocrinology and Nutrition.
With greater public awareness and screening, he said, someone with prediabetes can be identified early enough to allow for intervention before they cross over into diabetes.
Prediabetes is characterized as having abnormally high blood sugar levels, but not high enough to be diagnosed with diabetes, which is caused by the body not making enough insulin or not using insulin efficiently. It is a high-risk condition as almost everyone who develops Type 2 diabetes starts with prediabetes.
Developing diabetes is gradual and often goes unnoticed, which is why early identification is important.
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If you are at risk, make an appointment with a primary care physician or consider joining the
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"People moving from having prediabetes to diabetes may think the symptoms are just part of aging," said Kahn. "They think nothing of getting up more at night for a drink of water. They have no idea that this is diabetes if they haven’t been identified as being at risk."
Kahn said anyone with risk factors, such as being 40 or older, being overweight or obese, having a history of gestational diabetes or a family history of diabetes, having a history of high blood pressure, or being physically inactive should take the risk test and then speak with a doctor about being screened for prediabetes.
The screening is a blood test to check glucose levels. In addition, anyone with a family history of diabetes should start screening at a young age, because children and adolescents can also develop Type 2 diabetes.
Once someone has been screened and identified as having prediabetes, the two best approaches to prevent diabetes are lifestyle changes to lose just 7 percent of bodyweight and treatment with metformin, a generic and inexpensive medication that helps control blood sugar levels, said Kahn.
"We know that individuals who get back to normal, going from prediabetes to normal glucose levels just once in a period of three to four years, had a rate of developing diabetes that was 50 percent less than those who never achieved it," said Kahn.
Kahn is a researcher with the
RISE (Restoring Insulin Secretion) Study, which is looking at whether aggressive glucose-lowering strategies can further slow or reverse the progression to diabetes in people diagnosed with prediabetes within a year’s time. People with prediabetes can still join the study.
To learn more about prediabetes, or to make an appointment with a primary care physician, call 855.520.5151.