A third of adults in England now ‘on cusp of diabetes’

diabetesOver one in three adults are on the brink of developing type 2 diabetes, according to the findings of new research.

The British Medical Journal have published alarming findings that show there has been an “extremely rapid” increase in the cases of pre-diabetes since 2003.

The authors of the study discovered that in 2011, there had been a triple increase in the number of people confirmed with having pre-diabetes, rising from 11.6% in 2003 to a staggering 35.3% by 2011. To come to this judgement, the authors looked at data comprised from the Health Survey for England for the years 2003, 2006, 2009 and 2011, which included information about the blood samples of thousands of people.

The authors said: “This rapid rise in such a short period of time is particularly disturbing because it suggests that large changes on a population level can occur in a relatively short period of time. If there is no coordinated response to the rise in pre-diabetes, an increase in numbers of people with diabetes will ensue, with consequent increase in health expenditure, morbidity and cardiovascular mortality.”

Researchers determined an individual to have pre-diabetes if they had not been previously diagnosed with the condition, and their glycated haemoglobin – a measure of blood glucose control – was found to be at a level between 5.7% and 6.4%.

If the findings were amplified for the rest of the UK, it could suggest there are now an estimated 15 million adults that are pre-diabetic, with a further 4 million actually suffering from diabetes.

Nine tenths of all cases of diabetes are type 2, often occurring in mid-life and heavily linked to weight gain, and worryingly, as a nation we are simply getting fatter.

During the last 20 years there has been almost a double rise in the number of obese adults, soaring from 13.2% amongst men in 1993 to 24.4% now. Women show a similar pattern, increasing from 16.4% to a whopping 25.1%.

Pre-diabetes previously went by the name of ‘borderline diabetes’, and is the term given when someone has glucose levels that are in the very high end of what is deemed ‘normal’, but not yet high enough to be classified as type 2 diabetes – a condition that can lead to other complications such as heart disease or stroke, and is particularly common in men with suffering with erectile dysfunction.

Most people in this ‘grey area’ between normal blood sugar levels and diabetic levels, often do not display any symptoms associated with type 2 diabetes, which usually include: urinating frequently (commonly at night), feeling very thirsty, loss of muscle bulk, weight loss and feeling very tired.

However, pre-diabetes is a very serious warning to take heed of and certainly an important stage in the development of diabetes. Type 2 diabetes has been strongly linked with both genetics and ethnicity, but an incredibly large percentage of cases of type 2 diabetes are caused by poor diet that leads to being overweight or due to obesity. With early enough lifestyle changes such as improving your diet, regular exercise and weight loss, it may just be enough to slow down or even prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes.

Barbara Young, Chief Executive of Diabetes UK, commented: “Unless we make people aware of their risk of type 2 diabetes and support them in changing their lifestyles, we could see an even greater increase in the number of people with the condition than we are already expecting. A tenth of the NHS budget is already being spent on diabetes and unless we get much better at preventing type 2 diabetes this spending will soon rise to unsustainable levels.”

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