Mary R. Rooney

How Many Pre-diabetics Go On to Develop Diabetes? Interview with:

Mary R. Rooney

Dr. Rooney

Mary R. Rooney, PhD, MPH
Postdoctoral research fellow
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health  What is the background for this study?

Response: Prediabetes is defined by elevated blood glucose levels below the threshold for diabetes diagnosis. Physicians screen for prediabetes to identify patients at high risk for diabetes. Prediabetes is common in middle-aged adults but has not been well-studied in older age. We undertook this study to examine the natural history of prediabetes in older adults. What are the main findings?

Response: We found that prediabetes was common, affecting up to 73% of older adults without diabetes at baseline.  However, after 6 years follow-up, fewer than 12% of the individuals with prediabetes developed diabetes. In fact, study participants with prediabetes at baseline were much more likely have their glucose levels return to the normal range or die than go on to develop diabetes. What should readers take away from your report?

Response: In older adults, a “prediabetes” diagnosis may not capture high-risk patients. Our findings support a focus on lifestyle improvements, including exercise and diet when feasible and safe, for older adults with prediabetes, rather than glucose-lowering drugs which may have side-effects. This approach can have broad health benefits in older age. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: Including older adults in research is critical since results from studies and clinical trials in middle-aged adults may not be as relevant in older populations, especially those with multiple comorbidities.


Rooney MR, Rawlings AM, Pankow JS, et al. Risk of Progression to Diabetes Among Older Adults With Prediabetes. JAMA Intern Med. Published online February 08, 2021. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2020.8774




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Last Updated on February 8, 2021 by Marie Benz MD FAAD