Stop Type 2 Diabetes Before You Get It
The evidence is clear: People with a condition known as prediabetes can delay or even prevent the onset of full Type 2 diabetes with moderate exercise and weight loss. But most of the 54 million Americans who have the condition don't even know it.
The good news is you can get screened for prediabetes. And you should-especially if you're overweight, have a family history of diabetes, or are American Indian, African-American, Hispanic/Latino American, Asian-American, or Pacific Islander.
"Diabetes is rampant," says Larry Deeb, president for Medicine and Science at the American Diabetes Association. ADA estimates that 20.8 million Americans have diabetes and that a third of today's children will eventually get the disease.
Prediabetes, as the name suggests, is the disease's precursor. The condition occurs when a person's blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be called diabetes. Medical authorities have adopted the name prediabetes (they used to call it glucose tolerance or impaired fasting glucose) to emphasize the connection to Type 2 diabetes and the seriousness of the condition's health effects.
Prevention. Prediabetes is easily treatable-if you know you have it. However, most people with prediabetes don't. They feel perfectly fine until their blood sugar gets too high, and then it's dangerous, says Deeb.
A large clinical study, the Diabetes Prevention Program, showed that people with prediabetes who aimed to lose 7 percent of their body weight by exercising 150 minutes per week and improving their diet cut the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by 58 percent (71 percent for people over 60).
Some doctors give the diabetes test as part of a routine physical, and it's a good idea to make sure yours does. There are two tests: Both are blood tests and require a person to fast overnight. For the fasting plasma glucose test, which the ADA recommends because it is cheaper and simpler, blood sugar is measured in the morning after an eight-hour fast. In the oral glucose tolerance test, a person's blood glucose is checked after fasting and again two hours after consuming a glucose-rich drink.
Most insurance plans cover the tests, which shouldn't cost more than $20 or $30.
This story appears in the December 25, 2006 print edition of U.S. News & World Report.