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'Pre-Diabetes' Puts Millions at Risk

WebMD Health News

March 28, 2002 -- The threat of an epidemic of diabetes is now so great that the U.S. government has created a whole new condition for those at risk, called "pre-diabetes." Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson warns that nearly 16 million Americans may suffer from the condition that sharply raises the risk for developing type 2 diabetes and increases the risk of heart disease by 50%.

Research shows that most people with pre-diabetes will develop diabetes within a decade unless they make changes in their lifestyle, such as eating a healthier diet and becoming more physically active.

Type 2 diabetes was previously called adult-onset diabetes. In recent years, however, the number of children and adolescents with this type of diabetes has grown -- largely due to the growing number of overweight youngsters.

"The good news is that if you have pre-diabetes, you can do something about it," says Thompson in a news release. "We want people to know that pre-diabetes is a serious condition that can be reversed or alleviated with modest changes in their daily routines -- such as eating fewer calories and walking regularly for exercise."

Thompson also announced new recommendations about pre-diabetes from a panel including members of the American Diabetes Association. They call for doctors to begin screening overweight patients over age 45 for pre-diabetes.

According to the panel, the new term describes an increasingly common condition in which blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not yet diabetic -- a condition known among doctors as impaired glucose tolerance or impaired fasting glucose. Having blood sugar levels in the pre-diabetes range increases the risk of heart attack or stroke by 50%.

The panel also recommends that doctors consider testing overweight people younger than 45 during regular office visits, especially if they are significantly overweight and have one or more of the following risk factors:

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If the level is below 70 or you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.

People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.

Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.

However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.

Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.

One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

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