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Seven million in UK have 'prediabetes'

An estimated seven million people in the UK have prediabetes - an under-diagnosed condition that makes them up to 15 times more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes - according to a new report released today by Diabetes UK. People with prediabetes, also known as Impaired Glucose Regulation (IGR), have blood glucose levels higher than normal but not high enough to be diagnosed as Type 2 diabetes. Recent research has shown prediabetes may already be causing long-term damage to the body, especially the heart and circulatory system.

Many people with prediabetes are overweight or obese at diagnosis and 90 per cent will either have a family history of prediabetes or have high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

Prediabetes can often be reversed

Crucially, prediabetes can often be reversed and the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes reduced by 60 per cent, simply through losing even just a moderate amount of weight, adopting a healthy, balanced diet and increasing physical activity levels.

Get Serious about diabetes

Diabetes UK is today also launching its Get Serious campaign, which aims to get as many people as possible to join Diabetes UK in the fight against diabetes, one of the UK’s biggest health challenges. The charity is asking people to sign up to the campaign and show their support. This could be by pledging to make healthy lifestyle changes, fundraising, campaigning or volunteering.

Tackling prediabetes

“It’s staggering that seven million people in the UK have prediabetes, which is often a precursor to Type 2 diabetes, a serious condition which can lead to long term complications such as heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, amputation and blindness," said Douglas Smallwood, Chief Executive of Diabetes UK.

Not too late to reverse prediabetes and reduce Type 2 risk

“Identifying and educating people with prediabetes is vital, as it’s not too late for many to make healthy lifestyle changes, reverse the condition completely and reduce their risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

"Ticking timebomb" of Type 2 diabetes

“Recent figures show that more than 145,000 new cases of mainly Type 2 diabetes were diagnosed in the past year, bringing the total number of people with diabetes in the UK to 2.6 million. It’s time for all of us to get serious about our health if we want to have any chance of defusing the ticking timebomb of Type 2 diabetes.”

'Putting Prevention First'

Diabetes UK welcomes the Government’s NHS Health Checks programme as part of their recent commitment to ‘Putting Prevention First’. The programme aims to assess and manage vascular risk in England and identify people at risk of prediabetes and Type 2 diabetes. Diabetes UK wants similar screening programmes to be established across the UK.

Diabetes UK also recommends prediabetes be communicated by healthcare professionals in a clear and consistent manner to minimise misunderstandings. The seriousness of prediabetes needs to be highlighted along with its potential risks and how those affected can prevent progression to Type 2 diabetes.

Prediabetes risk factors

If you are white and over 40 years old, or if you’re Black or South Asian and over 25 years old and have one or more of the following risk factors, then you may be at risk of prediabetes:

  • A close member of your family has Type 2 diabetes (parent or sibling).
  • You’re overweight or your waist is 31.5 inches or over for women; 37 inches or over for men, but 35 inches or over for South Asian men.
  • You have high blood pressure or you’ve had a heart attack or a stroke.
  • You’re a woman with polycystic ovary syndrome and you are overweight.
  • You’re a woman and you’ve had gestational diabetes.
  • You have severe mental health problems.

The more risk factors that apply, the greater the risk of prediabetes. If a person has one or more of these risk factors Diabetes UK recommends they consult their GP or healthcare team. The progression from prediabetes to Type 2 diabetes may be up to two to three times greater in South Asians compared to white people.

In the US prediabetes affects more than 56 million people, around 18 per cent of the population compared to around 15 per cent in the UK.

"My risk of developing Type 2 diabetes has been reduced"

In 2006 Douglas Nichol, now 65, from Leicester, received a letter from his GP inviting him to a Diabetes UK-led awareness programme after screening revealed his blood glucose levels to be high.

Douglas said: “There is, to the best of my knowledge, no history of diabetes in my family. I realised that at almost 15 stones I was overweight and I also had a BMI of 29, both additional risk factors for diabetes on top of the high blood pressure and heart attack.

“I was told that if I took the appropriate steps I could halve the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes – the fear factor was a major consideration for me in becoming as proactive as I have.

“I now weigh just over 12 and a half stones, more than two stones less than at the time of diagnosis, my BMI has fallen from 29 to 25 and I have briskly walked over 2,000 miles in the last year or so - around five miles a day. My last three blood glucose readings have been normal and I understand my risk of developing Type 2 diabetes has been reduced.”

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