A third of adults in England have pre-diabetes

27th Jun 2014

More than a third of adults in England are on the cusp of developing type-2 diabetes, according to a recent report in the British Medical Journal. The report highlights that there has been an alarming rise in pre-diabetes since 2003, and the report’s authors predict there will be a surge in type-2 diabetes in the coming years, which will have a huge impact on people’s health, life-expectancy and the NHS budget.

People with pre-diabetes have no symptoms of ill health, but their blood sugar levels are at the very high end of the normal range, though not high enough to be actually classified as diabetic. According to the study, the pre-diabetes rate among English adults rose sharply from about 12% in 2003 to 35% in 2011. This is a worrying trend and could have serious consequences for the health of adults in England in the future, as many will go on to develop type 2 diabetes.

These figures compare with America where around 36% of adults are thought to be pre-diabetic. The main reason for this sudden jump is unclear but the authors of the study say it is likely to be related to a rise in obesity in England in the 1990s, a trend that began later than the obesity crisis in America. We only need to look to America to see where we are heading if we don’t act now to improve our diet and sedentary life styles.

People with type 2 diabetes are more likely to develop other serious medical complications like cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, nerve and retinal damage and problems with ulcers and wound healing. The cost to the NHS to treat diabetes and its related conditions is high.

Changes to diet and lifestyle are needed to stop the rise of diabetes. Being overweight is a significant risk factor – more than half of overweight English adults age 40 and older are pre-diabetic, the study found and between 5% and 10% of people with pre-diabetes go on to develop type-2 diabetes each year.

Professor Richard Baker, one of the report’s authors from the University of Leicester, commented on the results saying, “The study is an important signal that we need to take action to improve our diet and lifestyles. If we don’t, many people will have less healthy, shorter lives.”

Rachel Kayani

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