Is Diabetes In Your Future?

Is Diabetes In Your Future?

As the doctor scanned his patient's file, one thing stood out: a family history of type 2 diabetes. Although the woman's previous blood work showed no signs of trouble, a more sensitive test was ordered--and the results were disturbing. "It looks like you have prediabetes," he told her.

With that diagnosis two years ago, Susan Hicks, 44, a database administrator in Manassas, Va., became one of more than 40 million Americans whose blood glucose levels are higher than normal, but not quite elevated enough to be deemed full-blown diabetes. This condition--now called prediabetes, but also referred to as syndrome X, insulin resistance syndrome, or metabolic syndrome--can easily worsen unless preventive measures are taken.

Because Hicks had witnessed complications from her father's diabetes, including skin ulcers requiring partial amputation of one foot, before he died at age 61, she was determined to respond proactively. "I didn't want those things to happen to me," she says.

At 21 million cases and climbing, diabetes has reached epidemic levels in the United States, yet Hicks needn't add her name to the roster. "Prediabetes doesn't mean you're destined to develop diabetes," says Edward Horton, M.D., director of clinical research at Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston. According to the Diabetes Prevention Program, a study of 3,200 pre-diabetics that Horton helped conduct, lifestyle changes can prevent the progression to type 2 diabetes--and do it more effectively than standard diabetes medications.