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Prediabetes affects 1 in 3 Americans, offers a wake-up call

Apr 18 2016

Prediabetes is your body’s wake up call. Approximately 86 million people – one in three adults – have prediabetes. An estimated 10 to 15 percent of those with prediabetes will develop diabetes in the next 5 years unless they make health modifications. Of the 29 million people with diabetes in the U.S., more than 75,000 of them will die from it each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Prediabetes is a condition where blood glucose levels are higher than normal, but aren’t high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes. According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA) people with prediabetes are at a higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes, as well as heart disease and strokes. A family history of heart disease, diabetes and stroke can also increase your risk of developing prediabetes or type 2 diabetes.

Diabetes causes blood glucose (sugar) levels to rise higher than normal. If you have prediabetes, it means you haven’t crossed the threshold yet but you are close enough to be concerned.

The sobering statistics and outlook for people with prediabetes should be a wake up call, says Dr. Kenneth Snow, M.D., medical director at Aetna. “A diagnosis of diabetes can be life-changing. It can become a balancing act like no other. But usually with lifestyle changes and proper medical care, people at risk can make a difference in the course of their health,” Snow said.

Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes, where your body doesn’t use insulin properly. Your pancreas makes extra insulin to make up for this deficiency. Unfortunately, over time your pancreas isn’t able to keep up and can’t make enough insulin to keep your blood glucose at a normal level.

Type 1 diabetes makes up the majority of children with diabetes, but can the disease can occur at any age. With type 1 diabetes, the body simply doesn’t produce the insulin it needs to get glucose from the bloodstream into the cells of the body.

Prediabetes – a blessing in disguise?

Diabetes is an expensive and complex condition. People with diabetes will have medical expenses around $13,700 a year, which includes $7,900 that are directly associated with the disease, according to the ADA.

“Treating diabetes and its complications is a long-term burden that can turn very expensive, very quickly,” Snow said. “It’s critically important that patients take their medication regularly and get the appropriate therapies to ensure the disease is managed properly. This is why a diagnosis of prediabetes can actually be a blessing in disguise: it means there is still time to make life-changing  adjustments.”

Overall costs on the rise for treating diabetes

In the U.S., the total cost to treat patients with diabetes grew 41 percent in a five-year period from 2007 to 2012, according to the ADA. The total estimated costs have risen from $174 billion in 2007 to $245 billion in 2012.

Diabetes is also on the rise in other parts of the world and particularly in China and the Middle East. According to the World Health Organization, nearly five percent of the world’s population – about 347 million people — have diabetes.

A study from Rand Health Advisory Services notes that while many countries are facing this issue as a result of an aging population, countries in the Middle East are seeing cases of diabetes rise across all age groups. Moreover, diabetes rates in the Middle East are expected to continue rising over the next 20 years, including among children and adolescents.

 Preventing or delaying the onset of type 2 diabetes involves lifestyle changes.  Weight loss, dietary modifications and increasing physical activity can all make a difference, Snow said.

As you get older, your risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke increase. “It’s important to talk with your doctor about your cholesterol, blood pressure and blood glucose,” he said. “If you’re concerned you might be developing prediabetes, reach out to your primary care physician and find out what  steps you can take to improve your health.”

Aetna is tackling health priorities like diabetes with new programs designed to help individuals take control of their health with the right care and support systems. Adam Scott, vice president of Clinical Consumer Strategy at Aetna, explained that “many people with chronic conditions, like heart disease or diabetes, want to do more to self-manage and are eager for more information related to their care. One of the goals of these new plans is to remove as many barriers as possible to get members as engaged as possible, while getting the care they need and want.”