According to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), over 70 million of America’s 79 million “prediabetic” residents — those with relatively high blood sugar but not high enough to qualify as diabetic — knew they were at risk of developing the disease in 2012.
As Everyday Health reports, that’s particularly bad news considering that prediabetic Americans can reverse their condition through diet and exercise, preventing their blood sugar from reaching diabetic levels and sparing them from the chronic illness and its associated health care costs:
While prediabetes is often reversible with a healthy diet and exercise, the CDC said in its report, those with the condition need to know they have it or they’re unlikely to make the needed lifestyle changes. And without those lifestyle changes, research has shown that within 10 years most prediabetics develop diabetes, which can lead to a variety of serious complications, from heart disease to kidney failure to blindness.
“If we can identify it early on, we can treat it,” said Scott Drab, PharmD, associate professor of pharmacy and therapeutics at the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy. “We can prevent many of these patients from going on to get diabetes.”
In its report, the CDC noted that only 14 percent of Americans even know prediabetes exists — but the agency was also clear that the condition and therefore the risk of developing diabetes could be reversed or delayed in many cases by eating less, exercising and losing weight.
“Evidence-based lifestyle programs aimed at increasing physical activity, improving diet, and achieving moderate weight loss among those with prediabetes can prevent or delay type 2 diabetes,” the CDC said in the report. “Because the vast majority of persons with prediabetes are unaware of their condition, identification and improved awareness of prediabetes are critical first steps to encourage those with prediabetes to make healthy lifestyle changes.”
Some doctors recommend that all Americans get screened for prediabetes every year in order to bolster prevention efforts and stop the disease before it progresses to an unsustainable stage. That’s not surprising considering that excess sugar in diets leads to 180,000 annual deaths worldwide and that the rise in American diabetes rates is the main driver of ballooning U.S. health care costs.