Understanding diabetes

‘Silent’ killer bigger threat than first thought

Prediabetes is not as benign as first thought with new proof that the often silent condition is a killer and needs aggressive treatment - a chilling red flag to the hundreds of thousands of Queenslanders who are living with the condition, many clueless they are sufferers.

Diabetes Queensland has issued a warning to those with "even a touch of sugar" in their blood to make healthy lifestyle changes with research showing they are at nearly double the risk of heart attack or stroke.

"If your doctor says you have a touch of sugar or pre-diabetes, take the message seriously. We're seeing younger and younger Australians being diagnosed with pre-diabetes and this does not augur well for the future," Diabetes Queensland chief executive Sturt Eastwood said.

"People diagnosed with prediabetes need to make sensible changes to their lifestyle or there is a very high probability they will go on to develop type 2 diabetes. A healthy diet, increased movement and sustained weight loss is the key. Research shows reducing weight by just 10 per cent can be beneficial," he said.


People with prediabetes are twice as likely to suffer a heart attack. Picture: iStock
People with prediabetes are twice as likely to suffer a heart attack. Picture: iStock


The international research, which was recently presented to the American College of Cardiology's 70th Annual Scientific Session, reveals people with prediabetes were significantly more likely to suffer a heart attack, stroke or other major cardiovascular event when compared with those who had normal blood sugar levels.

"In general, we tend to treat prediabetes as no big deal. But we found that prediabetes itself can significantly boost someone's chance of having a major cardiovascular event, even if they never progress to having diabetes," lead author said.

The findings showed that the relationship between higher blood sugar levels and cardiovascular events remained significant even after taking into account other factors that could play a role, such as age, gender, body mass index, blood pressure, cholesterol, sleep apnoea, smoking, and peripheral artery disease.

"As clinicians, we need to spend more time educating our patients about the risk of elevated blood sugar levels and what it means for their heart health and consider starting medication much earlier or more aggressively and advising on risk factor modification, including advice on exercise and adopting a healthy diet," the author said.

Mr Eastwood said there are some factors that people can't change such as genetic predispositions, family history or even just getting older but we can change our lifestyle choices.

Originally published as 'Silent' killer bigger threat than first thought