Screenings urged for new diabetes condition
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Native Americans are being urged by federal health officials to get tested for a newly named condition in an effort to prevent full development of diabetes, a disease which has reached epidemic proportions in Indian Country.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson said yesterday that a panel of health experts recommends that overweight Americans over the age of 45 be screened for "pre-diabetes." The condition is defined as having a high level of glucose, a sugar in the blood, but not enough to rise to the level of diabetes.

At risk groups under the age of 45 are specifically encouraged to get tested. American Indians and Alaska Natives are included, said the panel, a joint effort of the American Diabetes Association and the federal government.

"Diabetes has reached epidemic proportions and it's still on the rise," said Thompson.

The recommendations apply to type 2 diabetes, which typically develops later on in a person's life. Among Native Americans, however, the disease is showing up in younger populations.

Native Americans ages 15 to 19 have the highest prevalence of diabetes in the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The rate is 4.5 per 1,000, compared to 1.7 for the general population.

The high rate has contributed to a rise in cases in Indian Country. An estimated 9 percent of American Indians and Alaska Native live with diabetes, according to the National Institutes of Health.

The number jumps to 30 percent among Oklahoma tribes and up to 50 percent for the Pima of Arizona, according to federal statistics. But Thompson said some simple steps, such as eating less and moderate exercise, can be taken to reduce full-blown development of the disease.

Without proper care, diabetes can lead to serious problems, including amputation, blindness and kidney problems. Renal failure has been reported among some Pima teenagers.

Nationally, the number of cases of diabetes has exploded in the past decade. The CDC reported last year a 33 percent increase. Obesity, at 61 percent, is also at a record high, contributing to the problem.

About 17 million people suffer from diabetes, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. An additional 16 million have "pre-diabetes."

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Relevant Links:
American Diabetes Association -
Diabetes Prevention Program -
National Diabetes Program, Indian Health Service -

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