About 30 million Americans — more than 9 percent of the population — currently have diabetes, and one in three Americans is expected to have diabetes by 2050.
Diabetes happens when your blood glucose, or blood sugar, levels are too high. Over time, the extra glucose can wreak havoc on health, damaging the eyes, kidneys and nerves and leading to amputations, stroke and heart disease. Type 2 diabetes is one of the major causes of disease and death, primarily as a result of cardiovascular disease (CVD), which is responsible for up to 80 percent of these deaths.
Yet the situation is far from hopeless. Research has shown that diabetes and its dire consequences for the heart and other body systems are both predictable and preventable.
When it comes to prediction, adiponectin testing can play a role. Adiponectin is a hormone released by fat cells that helps control how the body uses sugars and fats from foods. It also helps reduce inflammation in the body and the accumulation of cholesterol in arteries. People with low adiponectin levels are more likely to have metabolic syndrome — a cluster of dangerous heart attack risk factors — or diabetes, and may be at risk of developing heart disease in the future. Research shows a significant correlation between low adiponectin levels and the risk of metabolic syndrome.
If you or your doctor have concerns about your risk for metabolic syndrome and diabetes, adiponectin testing can give your doctor clues to how your body stores and uses energy from food. The test may be ordered if you have a large waist size, elevated blood pressure or abnormal blood fats, and a fuller picture of your diabetes and CVD risk is needed.
Another useful tool is oxidized LDL testing, which can help to predict the likelihood of developing metabolic syndrome. People with high levels of oxidized LDL are four times more likely to develop metabolic syndrome up to five years following testing. High oxidized LDL levels are particularly associated with abdominal obesity.
As for prevention, the path is clear. A large multicenter clinical trial, called the (DPP), found that a regimen involving healthful diet changes and increased activity, designed to help people at high risk for diabetes lose weight, significantly reduced their risk of developing diabetes. In fact this strategy worked better than taking a diabetes drug.
Study participants were all overweight and had higher than normal blood glucose levels, though not high enough to be diagnosed with diabetes. Those who did the lifestyle intervention reduced their risk of developing diabetes by 58 percent, compared to just 31 percent among people who took the diabetes drug.
Achieving such remarkable results is challenging but obtainable. In the DPP, participants assigned to the lifestyle intervention were instructed to eat less fat and fewer calories and to exercise for a total of 150 minutes a week, with the goal of losing 7 percent of their body weight (14 pounds for a person weighing 200 pounds.) A commitment to this modest goal could make a tremendous difference to your health and future risk for diabetes and heart disease.