Turning the tide on pre-diabetes among Americans

Reporter: Amy Oshier
Published: Updated:

The U.S. is facing an epidemic of chronic diseases and chief among them is diabetes.

More than 37 million Americans have it and millions more are on the brink, but it’s possible to change course by taking action now.

Chris Sheridan, 48, was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes 20 years ago.

He is now insulin-dependent, forced to take injections to manage sugar because his body can’t.

“And I have to give myself a shot every day,” Sheridan said.

If you don’t have diabetes now, there’s a good chance you may in the future, if statistics hold true.

The CDC finds 38% of U.S. adults have prediabetes and up to 30% of them will go on to have the full-blown disease within five years. This early-stage condition is something Fort Myers Dr. Julia Belanger sees all the time.

“Why, because I’m testing for it, so I have patients that are overweight or obese or have high blood pressure or other predisposing factors,” Belanger said.

Linked to lifestyle, the condition has almost no symptoms. It’s picked up through blood testing.

“We like to measure something called your hemoglobin A-1C. That’s a measure of how high your sugar has been, on average, for the past three months,” Belanger said, “so when that starts to run high, anywhere between 5.7 and 6.4, that’s pre-diabetes. At 6.5 and above, that’s full-blown diabetes.”

Turning the tide takes changing habits like adding exercise and losing weight. Cutting carbs also significantly reduces the risk.

“I always tell my patients try at least three to six months of a very low-carb diet, and you will get rid of this problem,” Belanger said.

Considering diabetes increases heart attacks, strokes, nerve damage and more, taking steps now can help move the needle in avoiding a major medical condition.

New diabetes drugs, including Ozempic, may be making a difference, too.

New cases started going down in 2019, after 20 years of increases.

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