Dr. Lorna Fitzpatrick

One in three adults in the U.S. – or about 88 million Americans – has prediabetes, yet more than 80 percent of them don’t know it, according to an Excellus BlueCross BlueShield review of current data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). As a result, these adults can’t make the lifestyle changes or have the medical interventions needed to address their condition, the health plan’s research concluded. If you have prediabetes, your blood sugar is higher than normal, but not high enough to be considered type 2 diabetes. Still, you are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes within five years. In addition, 50 percent of women diagnosed with gestational diabetes (GD) during pregnancy will go on to develop type 2 diabetes within five years.

“If you know you have prediabetes or another risk factor, there are things you can do to reduce your blood sugar and decrease the risk of it progressing to type 2 diabetes,” says Lorna Fitzpatrick, MD, vice president of medical affairs and senior medical director at Excellus BCBS. “People with type 2 diabetes have a high incidence of serious health problems, including heart attack, stroke, blindness, kidney failure, and the loss of toes and feet.”

The need to prevent type 2 diabetes has never been greater. Diabetes is currently the seventh leading cause of death in the United States. If current trends continue, the CDC predicts one in five adults will have diabetes by 2025. About a quarter of all health care spending is on people with diagnosed diabetes.

Prediabetes can be determined with a simple blood sugar test prescribed by your doctor. If you are found to have prediabetes, the American Diabetes Association says early treatment and moderate lifestyle changes can return blood sugar levels to a normal range, effectively preventing or delaying type 2 diabetes. Lifestyle changes include losing around five to seven percent of your body weight, or just 10 to 14 pounds for a 200-pound person, and getting regular physical activity, such as brisk walking, for at least 150 minutes a week.

“We’re talking about 20 minutes of physical activity a day, which could be as simple as a walk around the block after dinner with a walking partner or your dog,” says Fitzpatrick. As always, check with your doctor before starting, or making changes to, an exercise routine.

DoIHavePrediabetes.org was created by the CDC in partnership with the American Diabetes Association, the American Medical Association and the Ad Council. Visitors to the site can take a brief online test to learn their risk.

The CDC also offers a free online National Diabetes Prevention Program to help people lower their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by as much as 58 percent (71 percent for those over age 60). Find more information at www.cdc.gov/diabetes/prevention.

Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, is a nonprofit health plan with 1.5 million upstate New York members. The company’s mission is to help people live healthier and more secure lives through access to high-quality, affordable health care. Its products and services include cost-saving prescription drug discounts, wellness tracking tools and access to telemedicine. With more than 3,500 employees, the company is committed to attracting and retaining a diverse workforce to foster innovation and better serve its members. It also encourages employees to engage in their communities by providing paid volunteer time off as one of many benefits. To learn more, visit ExcellusBCBS.com.