Diabetes test and pre-diabetes status

Older adults with "pre-diabetes" may not necessarily progress to full-blown diabetes

A recent study suggests that older adults classified as having "prediabetes" due to moderately elevated blood sugar levels may not necessarily progress to full-blown diabetes. Conducted over six and a half years and involving nearly 3,500 older adults with a median age of 76, the study challenges the usefulness of prediabetes as an indicator of diabetes risk in advanced age.

According to Elizabeth Selvin, professor in the department of epidemiology at the Bloomberg School at Johns Hopkins University and senior author of the study, the results suggest that few older adults with blood sugar levels in the prediabetes range will actually develop diabetes. She emphasizes the importance of focusing on healthy lifestyle changes and addressing significant disease risk factors such as smoking, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.

Prediabetes is a concept used to identify individuals with blood glucose levels higher than normal but not yet in the diabetic range. It has been commonly utilized as an indicator of elevated diabetes risk in younger and middle-aged adults. However, its utility in older adults, particularly those aged 70 and older, has been less clear.

The study, conducted using data from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study, revealed that while prediabetes was prevalent among older adults, only a small percentage progressed to diabetes over time. Instead, many participants saw improvements in their blood sugar levels, while others passed away from causes unrelated to diabetes.

These findings suggest that prediabetes may not be a robust diagnosis in older adults. Consequently, the focus should shift towards lifestyle improvements, including exercise and diet modifications, which offer broad benefits for older adults with prediabetes. Additionally, physicians should prioritize screening for risk factors like hypertension, which are more useful in predicting illness and mortality in this population.

Ultimately, the study highlights the importance of personalized healthcare approaches and underscores the need to reevaluate current diagnostic and treatment strategies for prediabetes in older adults.

The HbA1c testing kit by London Health Company can help determine long-term blood sugar levels which can be reported to your GP for assessment of diabetic status. 

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