Are we turning a blind eye to prediabetes?


As many as one in four Kiwis could be on the brink of developing type 2 diabetes. It's already reached epidemic proportions and it's set to get worse.

A quarter of adults are thought to have prediabetes, meaning they have blood sugar levels that are higher than normal and are at high of developing type 2.

But there are concerns we're turning a blind eye to the warning signs.

Four years ago, a blood test revealed Butch Bradley had prediabetes.

"Dad was diabetic, there's diabetes on Mum's side of the family, so you know, the gene roulette, didn't keep coming up on my number," Mr Bradley says.

"What I was being told though is that it didn't have to be that way.  The choice was actually mine."

The doctor's diagnosis didn't come as a surprise, but it did shock him into taking action. He started walking more, designed a healthy eating plan and lost 25kg in two months.

But not everyone's as proactive and many don't even know they have it.

"There's a lot of people who have prediabetes who only really get to grips with it or start managing it once it becomes diabetes or they become unwell," says Diabetes New Zealand chief executive Steve Crew.

A quarter of Kiwis are estimated to have prediabetes. Age, weight, genetics and lifestyle all play a role.

The good news is, it's reversible with healthy eating and exercise.

"It's huge and it affects all of us so if we don't address the one in four people with prediabetes, the 257,000 that already have diabetes is going to increase," says Mr Crew.

Every day 40 New Zealanders are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and that's why Mr Crew says it's important to get checked.

As part of the Government's More Heart and Diabetes Checks Health Target, 1.2 million diabetes checks have been carried out.

Maori, Pacific and Indo-Asian men should be checked from 35 years, Maori, Pacific and Indo Asian women from 45 years, European men from 45 years and European women from 55 years.

Mr Bradley says it saved him from an unhealthy future.

"If I hadn't changed my lifestyle and listened to that warning, I'd be 25kgs bigger, I'd have high blood pressure, I'd have high cholesterol, and I'd either be prediabetic fully, or have type 2 diabetes."