An estimated seven million people in the UK have prediabetes - an under-diagnosed condition that puts them up to 15 times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes - according to a new report.
People with prediabetes, also known as impaired glucose regulation (IGR), have blood glucose (sugar) 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% will either have a family history of prediabetes or have high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
Crucially, prediabetes can often be reversed and the risk of developing type 2 diabetes reduced by 60% simply through losing even just a moderate amount of weight, adopting a healthy, balanced diet and increasing physical activity levels.
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.
Diabetes UK Chief Executive, Douglas Smallwood, said: “It’s staggering that an estimated 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.
“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.
“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.”
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.