A Diagnosis of Pre-Diabetes Isn’t Enough to Motivate Many Patients

In a study that tracked 1,402 people with pre-diabetes, researchers found that only about half of them responded to the diagnosis by trying to shed weight or increase their level of exercise.

Pre-diabetes, a condition that affects an estimated one-third of U.S. adults over the age of 20, is commonly defined as the presence of elevated blood glucose levels that are not quite high enough to qualify as diabetes, but are a big step on the way to acquiring the disease.

In the study, researchers from Emory University, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases surveyed 1,402 people whom they had determined to be pre-diabetic on the basis of blood glucose tests. Only seven percent of the study participants had already been told that they had pre-diabetes, and fewer than half-48 percent-had been tested for blood glucose levels within the past three years. (Of U.S. adults that have pre-diabetes, an estimated 92 percent are unaware of it.)

The researchers found that people with pre-diabetes tend to be older, are more likely to be male, and have such risk factors for cardiovascular disease as excess weight, abdominal fat, high levels of triglycerides, and high blood pressure. They also found that no ethnic group is more likely to have pre-diabetes.

The study’s description of the people who have pre-diabetes may give a hint as to why they resist altering their diet and exercise habits. Older people have long-established eating and exercise habits that are hard to change. The threat of potential diabetes is often weighed against current pleasures and satisfactions. Also, the existence of a potent array of contemporary diabetes therapies can be a form of reassurance that allows rationalization. People may assume that even if they do develop full-blown diabetes, the diagnosis would not as dangerous as it was before such medicines were available. 

In addition to concerns about the low rate of motivated patient responses to the diagnosis of pre-diabetes, the study, scheduled for publication in the April issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, raises concerns about how well healthcare professionals are monitoring potentially pre-diabetic patients and getting them to come in for blood glucose testing.

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Having Prediabetes May Not Kick-Start Prevention Efforts


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