By Amir Khan
More than 70 million Americans at high risk of developing diabetes don't know they're in danger, according to a new report by the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention -- making it unlikely they will take steps needed to avoid or delay the onset of the disease.
An estimated 79 million Americans were "prediabetic" in 2012, according to CDC -- with blood sugar levels that were higher than normal but not quite high enough to indicate they had diabetes. Only 11 percent of them recognized their problem.
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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."
People who are at risk for prediabetes -- for example, if those in their immediate family have diabetes -- and those unsure of their risk should to speak to their healthcare provider, the CDC said in the report.
Currently, the American Diabetes Association recommends that all men older than 45 be screened every three years for prediabetes. However, Drab said many Americans should get screened sooner and more often. "If you have risk factors, we recommend being screening for prediabetes starting at 30 and being screened every year," he said.
Drab, who specializes in diabetes, said patients are often shocked when he tells them they have prediabetes.
"When I talk about prediabetes with my patients, it's a wakeup call for them that they are on the verge of diabetes," he said. "I equate it to a traffic light. Prediabetes is a yellow light."
"Most With High Diabetes Risk Don't Know It, Says CDC" originally appeared on Everyday Health.