Scoring system could help people avoid diabetes diagnosis

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WHSV) -- A new study at the University of Virginia has found a scoring system can help track the reduction in diabetes risk when people with pre-diabetes make lifestyle changes and take medication.

According to a release, the system, called the MetS Severity Score, could be a tool that will help motivate patients to stick to diet and exercise changed that could save them from developing full-blown diabetes.

The researchers also say the scoring system may help when comparing the effectiveness of different diabetes interventions.

“We knew that a person's MetS severity score helped predict their future chances of developing diabetes and heart disease. This was the first time we have been able to show that a decrease in score during treatment reflected a decrease in risk of future disease,” said Mark DeBoer, MD, a UVA Children's Hospital pediatrician who developed the system with Matthew J. Gurka, PhD, at the University of Florida. “This means that following the score over time gives a patient an indication of their recent changes in exercise and diet are helping to decrease their chances of developing diabetes.”

The release says more than a quarter of Americans have pre-diabetes, which puts them at an elevated risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

But eating healthier, losing weight and exercising more can reduce the risk. Many people struggle to make these changes and stick with doctor recommendations.

The system could help patients appreciate the benefits of their work.

The release says the system had been effective at predicting the risk of diabetes, but researchers wanted to see if it could track changes in risk over time, which this study found it could.

“Unlike many other risk scores that can assess risk at baseline but can't be used to follow risk over time, this score changes in a meaningful way to help both doctors and patients know if their current treatment is helping to reduce their risk,” added DeBoer.

The study looked at more than 2,400 people with pre-diabetes who received treatment through lifestyle changes, the drug metformin or placebo that were part of the Diabetes Prevention Program between 1996 and 1999.

These patients were then followed through 2014 to see if they would develop diabetes.

MetS looks at the severity of a patient's “metabolic syndrome,” which is a set of conditions that include high blood sugar, excessive body fat around the abdomen and waist, and increased blood pressure, which are all major factors in diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

The researchers say doctors may want to incorporate this tool or one like it into their practice to help patients understand the factors contributing to their risk and help them appreciate the cumulative benefits of lifestyle changes.

The findings have been published in the scientific journal Diabetes Care.