ADA: Many at Risk for Diabetes Are Unaware

Despite evening newscasts that rarely skip talk about the increasing number of type 2 diabetes cases, and hard looks at the reasons why, many of those who run a high risk of developing diabetes are oblivious to it, according to the results of a new survey.

Researchers with the American Diabetes Association surveyed more than 1,400 people ages 40 and older, along with more than 600 healthcare professionals, and found that nearly 80 percent of patients at risk of developing type 2 diabetes think they are in excellent or good health.

The results could mean that doctors are not doing enough to make clear the association between risk factors and developing the disease, researchers said.

The survey found that 40 percent of those at-risk people believed they had no risk for developing diabetes, and only 30 percent of those with mild risk factors realized they were at an increased risk for developing the disease.

Less than half of those surveyed said they’d had in-depth discussions with their healthcare providers regarding blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and cholesterol, and less than half also said they had not been tested for risk factors as often as their healthcare providers or plans recommended.

Only one-fourth of patients recognize their own risk factors for type 2 diabetes and heart disease, the surveyed medical professionals said, so it should come as little surprise that patients aren’t hearing what doctors are telling them regarding diabetes.

Doctors say it’s tricky to treat at-risk patients because they are often non-compliant with the lifestyle changes doctors recommend, perhaps in part because they don’t truly recognize the importance of those changes and are in denial about their risks.

According to Virginia Peragallo-Dittko, the incoming chair of the American Diabetes Association’s prevention committee and executive director of the Diabetes and Obesity Institute at Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola, NY, it’s critical that healthcare providers make sure their patients understand the link between risk factors and developing diabetes.

“These findings suggest it is critical for providers to connect the dots with patients between risk factors and disease development,” said Peragallo-Dittko. “Providers think their at-risk patients are making the link between risk factors and heart attack, diabetes and death, but a quarter of these patients report they don’t even have any health problems. We have to close the gap if we want to prevent future development of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.”

According to the U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, type 2 diabetes, which is one of the leading causes of disability and death in the country, can be prevented by maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, and eating a diet that focuses on reduced fat, calories, and sodium.

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