~ What Are Your Odds of Developing Diabetes?

USA TODAY, 06-13-06

WASHINGTON -- Researchers using statistical models can predict a person's odds of developing diabetes based on how obese that person is at an early age, scientists reported here Monday.

Diabetes has long been linked to obesity, and it appears that the heavier you are at an early age, the greater the risk. Efforts to prevent obesity should start young, said Venkat Narayan, head of epidemiology and statistics at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's diabetes branch.

At a meeting here of the American Diabetes Association, Narayan presented an analysis of data gathered from 1997 to 2004 in the National Health Interview Survey on more than 800,000 healthy adults. He found the odds that a person who is a normal weight at age 18 will develop diabetes later in life are 1-in-5 or 1-in-6, he said, but that risk increases with BMI. "If you're very obese at age 18, you have a 3-in-4 chance of developing diabetes," he said.

BMI, or body mass index, is a measurement of body fat based on height and weight.

Several studies have shown that weight loss and exercise can reduce diabetes risk. "I would argue starting earlier before the damage has happened, around 10-15 years old," Narayan said.

Type 2 diabetes is the most common form, affecting up to 95% of the 20.8 million Americans who have the disease. Type 2 results partly from the body's inability to properly use its own insulin, a condition made worse by obesity.

A second CDC study looked at people with pre-diabetes, in which blood levels tested after an overnight fast are between 100-125 mg/dl, below the level of diabetes, diagnosed at 126 mg/dl. About 41 million Americans have pre-diabetes and are at risk of progression to diabetes.

CDC researchers found that compared with people who have normal blood glucose levels, those with pre-diabetes had more risk factors for heart disease, such as high blood pressure, obesity and high cholesterol.

Elevated blood sugar level should trigger testing for heart disease risks and vice versa, said Michael Englegau, acting director of the CDC's Division of Diabetes Translation.

"When you're looking at someone with hypertension (high blood pressure) or high cholesterol, you want to make sure you're also looking at high blood sugar," he said.

Also presented here Monday was a study of 216,000 patients in intensive-care units that showed high blood sugar levels are associated with increased mortality.

The study by the Veterans Affairs Inpatient Evaluation Center in Cincinnati found that high blood glucose levels, even just at 1 point above normal, raise death risk in ICU patients. In stroke patients with the highest sugar levels, deaths were 15 times higher than what would be expected. The risk was greatest in patients who had had heart attacks and stroke.

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