Only 11% of the estimated 79 million Americans who are at risk for diabetes
know they are at risk, federal health officials reported.
The condition, known as pre-diabetes, describes higher-than-normal blood sugar
levels that put people in danger of developing diabetes, according to the US
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"We have a huge issue with the small number of people who know they have it.
It's up a bit from when we measured it last, but it's still abysmally low," said
report author Ann Albright, director of the CDC's Division of Diabetes
Translation. "We need people to understand their risk and take action if they are at risk
for diabetes," Albright said. "We know how to prevent type 2 diabetes, or at
least delay it, so there are things people can do, but the first step is knowing
what your risk is - to know if you have pre-diabetes."
Things that put people at risk for pre-diabetes include being overweight or
obese, being physically inactive and not eating a healthy diet, Albright said.
These people should see their doctor and have their blood sugar levels checked,
There is also a genetic component, Albright said, which is why having a
family history of diabetes is another risk factor. "Your genetics loads the gun,
then your lifestyle pulls the trigger," she said.
According to the report, published in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly
Report, the lack of awareness of pre-diabetes was the same across the board,
regardless of income, education, health insurance or access to health care.
One expert found the numbers troubling.
"People don't know about pre-diabetes, they don't exercise, they don't eat
appropriate foods and we are going to have many more diabetics in the near
future than we have now," said Dr Spyros Mezitis, an endocrinologist at Lenox
Hill Hospital in New York City.
Diabetes delay, good news
The danger of pre-diabetes is that it can progress to full-blown diabetes,
with all the complications that condition entails, including heart, kidney,
circulation and vision problems.
Albright noted that 30% or more of those with pre-diabetes will develop
diabetes over the course of a decade.
The number of Americans with diabetes is already staggering. According to the
American Diabetes Association, 25.8 million children and adults in the United
States - 8.3% of the population - have diabetes.
"The good news is we know there are things you can do to prevent or delay the
development of type 2 diabetes," Albright said.
"You can prevent or delay diabetes if you lose 5% to 7% of your body weight
and get 150 minutes of physical activity a week."
Another expert said it starts with what you eat.
Eating a healthy diet that limits sugars and carbohydrates is important, said
Dr Joel Zonszein, director of the Clinical Diabetes Center at Montefiore Medical
Center in New York City.
Exercise and diet can reduce the risk of diabetes by about 58%, he said, and
"giving the drug metformin can reduce the risk by 31%. Lifestyle changes,
together with metformin, which the American Diabetes Association recommends for
pre-diabetes, will be very effective."
For more on diabetes, visit the American Diabetes
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