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The results of recent study conducted by John Hopkins University and published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine may be cause for concern for millions of Americans and their loved ones. Researchers found that fewer than one in 10 primary healthcare physicians could identify all 11 risk factors for pre-diabetes. This serious condition could eventually lead to type 2 diabetes and affects an estimated 86 million adults in the United States.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is estimated that 90 percent of those living with pre-diabetes do not know that they have the condition. Simple changes in diet, exercise, and certain medications can help prevent pre-diabetics from becoming type 2 diabetes patients.
To explore why so many people with pre-diabetes are undiagnosed, the researchers asked primary care doctors attending a medical retreat to complete a survey that tested their knowledge on key factors for the condition. Of the 140 physicians that participated in the survey, nearly one-third were not familiar with the ADA’s pre-diabetes guidelines and only six percent were able to identify all 11 risk factors. On average, doctors could only correctly identify eight of the warning signs.
In addition to the 11 risk factors, the doctors were asked to identify the healthy range for glucose tests results used to diagnose pre-diabetes. The doctors were also asked about recommendations regarding physical exercise and weight loss for patients with the condition. Only 17 percent knew the correct values for fasting glucose and another key measure of glucose, called HbA1c, which are used to diagnose pre-diabetes.
Moreover, only 11 percent of the doctors surveyed said that they would refer a patient to a behavioral weight loss program, despite the fact that is what the ADA recommends. Ninety-six percent did select to provide counseling on physical activity and diet.
Primary care doctors play a critical role in screening and identifying patients that are at a risk for developing diabetes. The study showed the importance of increasing doctors’ knowledge to better assist patients in reducing their risk of developing diabetes.
Understanding what puts you at risk for pre-diabetes is one of the key factors to controlling the disease. Most people who are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes had pre-diabetes first. The risk factors include:
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