Last year, a record number of adults in England – roughly 2 million* – were told they had non-diabetic hyperglycemia, also known as prediabetes. It’s hard to estimate how many people in the whole of the UK have it, but the charity Diabetes UK estimates it could be about 7 million. And the real figure could be even higher because it has no symptoms, so many are totally unaware.
Although the World Health Organisation does not officially recognise prediabetes, doctors use it to mean that you are at an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the future. It also means you have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
Other terms to describe prediabetes include ‘impaired fasting glucose’, ‘impaired glucose tolerance’ or ‘borderline diabetes’. They all mean the same thing – that the level of sugar or glucose in your blood is higher than usual, but not at a high enough level to be classified as type 2 diabetes.
The trouble is, the only way to discover if you have prediabetes is via a blood test. I spend a lot of time in my clinic explaining to my patients why we take blood tests, and what the results show and mean.
Often doctors investigate with a blood test when we are looking to confirm something or to rule out a condition – such as anemia or hypothyroidism.
But doctors also do blood tests as part of the screening, when someone does not necessarily have any symptoms of a condition. For example, if you have high blood pressure then your GP will annually request a blood test to check your kidney function, your cholesterol levels and blood glucose levels. This is because it’s known that people with high blood pressure often also have high cholesterol or diabetes.
Alternatively, if you do not have any health conditions you will be invited for an NHS health check every five years between the ages of 40 and 74 and be offered a blood pressure check and blood tests. So it’s important to attend, even if you feel healthy.
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