FRIDAY, June 8 (HealthDay News) -- People with higher-than-normal blood sugar levels -- or prediabetes -- may be at greater risk for having a stroke later in life, according to a new review.
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Researchers from the University of California warned that this could represent a large-scale health problem, with prediabetes affecting 79 million people in the United States alone.
The study was published online June 7 in the BMJ.
Examining 15 previous studies involving more than 760,000 people, the researchers found that people with prediabetes had a 21 percent higher risk of stroke, according to a journal news release.
Whether a greater risk really exists, however, depended on how prediabetes was measured.
Previously, prediabetes was defined as having a blood sugar (or blood glucose) level of 110 to 125 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl) following a 12-hour fast.
This definition of prediabetes was set in 1997 by the American Diabetes Association. In 2003, however, the association revised the guidelines to include people with a fasting glucose of 100 to 125mg/dl. Based on this lower limit, the researchers found no increased risk for stroke.
The study authors argued there may be a "threshold effect" and that the risk for stroke may increase at or above a fasting glucose level of 110mg/dl. They noted that the quality of evidence was variable and that other factors also may come into play.
They concluded that people with prediabetes or a fasting glucose level of 110 to 125mg/dl had a "modestly higher risk of future stroke," and that people with this condition should keep their weight under control and adopt a healthier lifestyle to reduce the risk.
In an accompanying journal editorial, Jonathan Treadwell, a senior research analyst with the ECRI Institute, a nonprofit patient-care research organization, said the researchers used a simplified classification of prediabetes, and that it's impossible to know the exact scope of the potential association between prediabetes and stroke.
-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas
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SOURCE: BMJ, news release, June 6, 2012