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18 Million Brits Could Have Pre-Diabetes, Improved Testing is Needed to Halt a Diabetes Tsunami, Warns an Expert

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New analysis from London Medical Laboratory has revealed up to 18 million UK adults could have pre-diabetes which means they are on the verge of developing type 2 diabetes. That’s considerably higher than the 7 million figure that is usually quoted.

Dr Avinash Hari Narayanan (MBChB), clinical lead at London Medical Laboratory, says: “The analysis of the latest research into pre-diabetes raises some big questions. Why is the potential number of people with pre-diabetes so high? More importantly, how can we prevent them from developing “full-blown” type 2 diabetes, creating massive pressure on the NHS and altering millions of lives?”

Pre-diabetes means that your blood sugars are higher than usual, but not high enough for you to be diagnosed with diabetes. However, it does mean that you are at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes. People with pre-diabetes (also known as Impaired Glucose Regulation or non-diabetic Hyperglycaemia) have higher than normal blood glucose levels, suggesting early features of diabetes. Recent research has shown pre-diabetes may already be causing long-term damage to the body, affecting the heart and circulatory system.

Concerning, pre-diabetic are unlikely to experience any symptoms, meaning the condition goes unnoticed even at the threshold of type 2 diabetes, when irreversible damage has already occurred. This invisible killer shortens lives by up to ten years. That’s why the “Give the finger to diabetes” campaign was launched to identify undiagnosed cases with a simple finger prick blood test. In 2019, there were almost 14,000 diabetes-related deaths in the UK. The earlier people are diagnosed, the better the outcome.

The most commonly quoted figure for the number of people who have prediabetes is around 7 million. That figure dates back to 2009 research by Diabetes UK which, two years ago, released updated estimates suggesting 13.6 million people were at risk of developing diabetes.

This is still considerably smaller than the calculation, which is based on results from the most comprehensive research into prediabetes ever conducted in the UK. This study, published on the British Medical Journal’s “BMJ Open” website, found 35.3% of randomly selected participants were prediabetic. Growing obesity rates and an increasing population (there are now 53 million adults in the UK) mean that some 18.5 million Brits are now likely to be pre-diabetic.

Increased testing is needed to establish which among the population is at-risk. The most accurate test to identify pre-diabetes is known as the HbA1c test, which can be done at your local medical practice but is also now available as a revolutionary and convenient home-finger prick test from London Medical Laboratory.

What will these test results tell you?

  • An HbA1c of 41mmol/mol or below is considered normal.
  • An HbA1c of 42 – 47mmol/mol is considered in the pre-diabetic range.
  • An HbA1c of 48mmol/mol or above indicates that you have diabetes.

The sooner this problem is detected, the better we can manage it. Those who discover they have pre-diabetes should take it as a warning sign that they are at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The good news is that, pre-diabetes is not “full” diabetes yet and, with the right support, up to 50% of cases of type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed. Remember, type 2 diabetes can come on slowly, usually in people over the age of 40.

London Medical Laboratory’s finger prick HbA1c “diabetes – diagnosis and monitoring” test is considered the gold standard in regular testing. It is used to measure the average level of blood glucose over the previous two to three months and both accurately monitor and diagnose diabetes. It can be taken at home through the post, or at one of the many drop-in clinics that offer these tests across London and nationwide in over 95 selected pharmacies and health stores.

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