More than 90 percent of an estimated 60 million Americans are on the verge of getting type 2 diabetes but are completely unaware that they are at risk, according to HealthWomen.org. Many of these people have no symptoms, and many who learn they have the condition known as prediabetes think it’s no big deal.
But a diagnosis of prediabetes is nothing to take lightly, says Ann Albright, PhD, RD, director of the Division of Diabetes Translation at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The good news, she says, “is there is something you can do about it.”
Prediabetes, as the name suggests, is the precursor to diabetes. It occurs when blood glucose levels are higher than normal but are not yet high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes. According to the American Diabetes Association, some long-term damage to the body, especially the heart and circulatory system, may already be occurring during prediabetes.
It is crucial that when a diagnosis is made that patients follower their doctors’ advice get their blood sugar back in the normal range through a coordinated plan of healthy nutrition, increased physical activity and lifestyle coping strategies that support modest weight loss for those who are overweight. Following a plan not only reduces the risk of developing diabetes, but it works better than medication.
And, making lifestyle changes is safer than medication. All prescription drugs go through vigorous clinical trials to determine safety and efficacy, but that doesn’t guarantee there won’t be side effects for some who take the medication. Sometimes the adverse reactions can be dangerous.
Last year, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) severely restricted use of the type 2 diabetes drug Avandia after studies linked the medication to serious and often fatal heart attacks. And recently, the FDA issued a alert about the type 2 diabetes drug Actos, warning that studies showed the drug was linked to bladder cancer.
Anyone who is overweight and 45 years of age or older should be tested for prediabetes. A positive diagnosis should not be taken lightly, but seen as an opportunity to make lifestyle changes before damage has been done.
ACTOS is a trademark of Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Limited registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and used under license by Takeda Pharmaceuticals America, Inc.
AVANDIA is a registered trademark of GlaxoSmithKline.