Three out of 10 people in greater Athens area face risk of diabetes

Three in 10 adults living in the greater Athens areas are at risk of developing diabetes within the next five years or are already affected by the disease without being aware of it. A survey by Athens University’s First Pathology Clinic, led by Professor Nikos Katsilambros as part of the European study De Plan, on preventing Type II diabetes, showed that 7.9 percent of people over 30 years of age have the disease without realizing it, and about 20 percent are pre-diabetic, that is, they have a tendency toward the disease. «Preventing Type II diabetes, a condition that affects the arteries,» said Katsilambros, «is very important because the risk of arteriosclerotic complications begins even before the clinical presentation of the disease, during the pre-diabetic stage. It is not unusual for a complication to appear first, such as coronary disease, before the diabetes is diagnosed,» he added. According to the professor, epidemiological evidence confirms a rapid increase in the number of cases in Greece, as is true elsewhere, due to poor nutrition, obesity that has reached epidemic proportions and the sedentary lives people lead. These factors, along with the rapidly aging population, are expected to result in a doubling of the number of diabetics in the world from the current 200 million to 400 million by 2030. The disease is linked to a rise in the number of deaths from arterial disease, particularly coronaries and strokes. Finding people at a high risk for the disease was the purpose of the study, carried out in the greater Athens area. The scientific team included Constantinos Makrilakis and Stavros Liatis. The participants replied to a questionnaire on personal data linked to risk factors, such as body mass indicators (obesity), waistline size, age, physical activity, daily consumption of fruit and vegetables (which help to prevent diabetes from developing), whether they take hypertension drugs and their family medical history, including a history of high glucose levels in the blood. The survey found that 19.6 percent of adults belonged to the high-risk group for Type II diabetes. For those aged over 54, the risk factor rose to 38.8 percent of the population. After they had completed the questionnaire, the participants were subjected to blood tests that found: * 7.9 percent of the sample suffered from diabetes without knowing it. * 11.3 percent had high blood sugar levels on an empty stomach (110-125mgr/100gr) but were not classified as diabetics. * Another 11.3 percent had pathologically high blood sugar levels after taking glucose (140-200 mgr/100gr). These sugar levels (both on an empty stomach and after taking glucose) are classified as being pre-diabetic, as the people concerned have a 30-50 percent chance of getting the disease within five years. «In addition to the survey, an attempt is being made to prevent the onset of the disease by providing instructions on losing weight, eating properly and increasing physical activity. Even minor weight loss of 5-7 percent, combined with about 150 minutes of exercise a week has been found to reduce the risk by 58 percent in obese people who are pre-diabetic,» said Katsilambros. «The great advantage of treating pre-diabetics is that one can improve many other risk factors for cardiac disease, such as hypertension, obesity and hyperlipidemia.» Type II diabetes among children Children as young as 10 years of age are falling victim to the poor nutritional habits tolerated by their parents and developing Type II diabetes, a disease that was virtually non-existent in their age group only a few years ago, said Katsilambros. «In Greece we now have a population of very overweight children,» he said. «Children who systematically eat cookies, croissants, chips and similar products containing the trans fatty acids created during the hydrogenation of vegetable fats are 40 percent more likely to develop sugar diabetes (Type II). That is why there is an official recommendation to reduce these trans fatty acids, as they are even more atherogenic than saturated animal fats.» Meanwhile, genetic science has made considerable progress with the recent discovery of four genes which, if found together, produce a 70 percent likelihood of developing the disease. «It is very important to look for future probability of the disease appearing,» said Katsilambros, «particularly in vulnerable people. Tests can focus on those who have additional risk factors, such as obesity, sedentary lives, a history of gestational diabetes, hypertension, dyslipidemia or a history of arterial disease. Giving birth to a child weighing more than 4 kilograms, or having a first-degree relative with diabetes are risk factors that should also be taken into consideration.»

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