In April, 2004, the government released a revised estimate on the number of Americans with pre-diabetes. Forty-one million people are now believed to be “at risk” of developing type 2 diabetes. That is twice more people at risk than was originally estimated.
Why is there a sudden increase in numbers? Doctors have recently changed the criteria for diagnosing pre-diabetes in response to a change in the definition of “normal” blood-glucose levels. Where “normal” fasting blood-glucose levels were once thought to be below 110 milligrams per deciliter, the American Diabetes Association now defines “normal” blood-glucose levels as below 100 milligrams per deciliter. That means that anyone within the 100 to 125 range is now classified as pre-diabetic, and those above 125 are diabetic.
Research has shown that most people with pre-diabetes develop type 2 diabetes within 10 years. The good news is that a healthy diet and regular exercise can delay or even prevent the onset of diabetes. The Diabetes Prevention Program study showed that a mere 30 minutes a day of moderate physical activity, coupled with a 5 percent to 10 percent reduction in body weight, produced a 58 percent reduction in diabetes.
Because pre-diabetes has no associated symptoms, it is important to get tested regularly to know if you’re at risk. You should be tested if you are 45 or older and overweight, or if you have other risk factors for diabetes, such as a history of diabetes in the family, high LDL cholesterol, or high blood pressure. Younger people should also be tested if they are overweight and have an additional risk factor. People over 45 who are not overweight should consult with their doctor to see if testing is necessary. The test is typically repeated every three years, but it can be done more frequently for those with multiple risk factors.