Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island Issues Guidance to 200,000 Individuals in the State Who May Have Prediabetes

(Providence, RI, 10.31.2011)

In recognition of American Diabetes Month in November, Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island is offering guidance on how to prevent or delay the onset of diabetes. According to Rhode Island Department of Health estimates, about 200,000 Rhode Islanders may have prediabetes, a condition that exists when blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to be diagnosed with diabetes. However, only about 25,000 actually know that they have the condition.

"A significant number of Rhode Islanders – almost one-fifth of the state – may be prediabetic, putting them at risk for developing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease," said Dr. Gus Manocchia, senior vice president and chief medical officer. "However, the good news is that prediabetes is a condition where lifestyle choices such as maintaining a healthy weight and diet, or keeping active can help control blood sugar levels and prevent the onset of the diabetes. In fact, the American Diabetes Association reports that at-risk individuals can prevent or delay the development of diabetes by up to 58 percent through weight loss and regular exercise."

Being obese or overweight, which comprises 61.7 percent of the Rhode Island population according to "F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America's Future 2011," is a leading risk factor since the extra pounds keep the body from making and using insulin properly. According to the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, Rhode Islanders who are obese are three to four times more likely than their non-obese counterparts to develop diabetes.

To combat prediabetes, the American Diabetes Association recommends that people with the condition reduce their weight by 5 to 10 percent and participate in some type of physical activity for 30 minutes a day. Studies have shown that for some, losing weight and staying active can help in returning elevated blood glucose levels to the normal range.

Manocchia continued: "Statistics show that 23 to 25 percent of individuals with prediabetes will ultimately be diagnosed with the disease itself. That's why it is very important to speak with your physician at annual visits – or before if you are overweight, have high blood pressure, or a family history of diabetes – about routine blood glucose tests. These screenings provide important details about a higher than normal blood glucose level – the leading indicator of prediabetes. If it is determined that the patient is prediabetic, the provider then can work with the patient to determine the best course of action to keep the onset of diabetes at bay for as long as possible."

Many individuals may not have any symptoms related to prediabetes, which is why it is important be aware of the contributing factors. While age, family history, race and ethnicity cannot be controlled, the following can be managed:

  • Weight – Being overweight or obese prevents the body from making and using insulin properly – an important factor in managing blood glucose levels. It also is a risk factor for high blood pressure.
  • Blood Pressure and Cholesterol – A blood pressure higher than 140/90 and abnormal cholesterol levels can contribute to overall risk.
  • Physical Activity – Regular exercise helps manage blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol. Exercising at least three times a week or more can help moderate risk.

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Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island is the state's leading health insurer and covers more than 600,000 members. The company is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. For more information, visit and follow us on Twitter @BCBSRI.

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