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Delaying diabetes by just 4 years can reduce death risk decades later, scientists say

People living with pre-diabetes can cut their risk of death from the disease decades later by delaying the onset by just four years with diet and exercise, a new study finds.

Impaired glucose metabolism – commonly called prediabetes – can eventually cause people to develop type 2 diabetes, which is associated with an increased risk of death and disability in later years.

However, the exact long-term health benefits of delaying diabetes in prediabetic individuals remains unclear.

The new study, published on Tuesday in the journal PLOS Medicine, assessed the health outcomes of 540 prediabetic individuals who participated in a clinical trial conducted in Da Qing City in China, starting in 1986.

The trial included participants who were either part of a control group or one of three lifestyle intervention groups, and followed them for over three decades.

The interventions included either following a healthy diet, getting more exercise, or both.

Researchers assessed the long-term risk of death and cardiovascular events like heart attack, stroke or heart failure, and other diabetes-related complications for the trial participants.

They found that individuals who remained non-diabetic for at least four years after their initial diagnosis had a significantly lower risk of dying.

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Scientists also found that such participants had a significantly lower risk of experiencing a cardiovascular event compared to those who developed diabetes sooner.

However, this protective long-term effect was not seen in those who remained non-diabetic for less than the “four-year threshold”.

To prevent death from cardiovascular events, scientists say “no less than 6 years of maintaining a non-diabetes status” after prediabetes diagnosis is needed.

The findings suggest that the longer a prediabetic person can delay the onset of diabetes, the better their long-term health outcomes will be.

Just a few years of maintaining one’s prediabetic status can yield benefits for years to come, they say.

“This study suggests that a longer duration of non-diabetes status in those with IGT has beneficial health outcomes and reduces mortality,” researchers wrote.

Scientists call for effective interventions targeting prediabetic individuals as part of preventative management for diabetes and diabetes-related conditions.

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