What the New Diabetes Screening Recommendation Means for Everyone

There’s a new recommendation from the U.S. Preventive Task Force for prediabetes and type 2 diabetes screening, and it’s worth knowing about even if you’re young, your weight is where it should be, and no one in your family has diabetes.

Screenings are tests that look for disease before any symptoms are present.

Finding the problem early means you can prevent, stop, reverse, or slow down the damage of prediabetes or type 2 diabetes by maintaining an exercise regimen and healthy eating habits – medication may be involved in some cases.

Three Reasons You Should Care About Screening for Prediabetes and Type 2 Diabetes

1. You might be one of 86 million people in the U.S. with prediabetes, which can turn into diabetes if you don’t know about it and make the necessary changes.

2. Scientists expect that, at the present rate, 40 percent of Americans will become diabetic in their lifetimes. Even children are now being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes (the kind most people have). Twenty years ago, that was unheard of – children usually have type 1 diabetes which is a different disease process.

3. If prediabetes progresses to full-blown type 2 diabetes, it can lead to heart disease, high blood pressure, cholesterol problems, kidney disease, blindness, and more.

The New Screening Recommendation

All adults, including those who seem to be in good health, should begin getting screened for prediabetes and type 2 diabetes starting at age 45.

Even earlier screening is recommended for people with higher-risk factors, so talk to your doctor if you are under age 45 and have:

  • Obesity, especially central weight gain (weight gain around the abdomen)
  • A first-degree relative (mother, father, sister, brother, child) with diabetes
  • Women with a history of diabetes during pregnancy or of polycystic ovarian syndrome
  • Heritage including African Americans, American Indians/Alaskan Natives, Asian-Americans, Hispanics/Latinos and Native Hawaiians/Pacific Islanders
  • High blood pressure, low HDL (good cholesterol), or high triglyceride levels

The Screening Process

When a person has diabetes, their body does not process food the right way – it doesn’t have enough effective insulin, the hormone that turns food into sugar (glucose) to fuel the cells.

Screening for diabetes requires a simple blood test to measure blood glucose levels. The type of screening performed will usually be one of the following:

  • A1C test: Shows your average blood sugar level over the past two or three months. This test requires no special preparation.
  • Fasting plasma glucose (FPG): Shows your blood sugar level when you’ve not eaten for 8 hours. Since this test requires that you fast (don’t eat), it’s best to schedule it for first thing in the morning.
  • Glucose Tolerance Test (OGTT): Shows your blood sugar level both fasting and after a sugar load. This gives the most information to your physician about your blood sugar levels.

One or a combination of the above can be done to assess you for prediabetes or diabetes.

Understanding Prediabetes and Type 2 Diabetes

Prediabetes is when your blood sugar level is higher than normal but it’s not at the level of type 2 diabetes. Usually, there are no outward signs or symptoms of prediabetes. But if you have it and don’t make changes, there’s a good chance it will turn into type 2 diabetes within 10 years. Preventing diabetes is easier and better than treating it.

Type 2 diabetes can develop when your body resists or doesn’t produce enough effective insulin. As glucose builds up in the body, it damages nerves and small blood vessels. Over time, the damage can be devastating. Some people have no signs of type 2 diabetes, while others have thirst, hunger, fatigue, frequent urination, blurry vision, or skin sores that won’t heal.

Most type 2 diabetes can be controlled with diet, lifestyle changes and oral medication. A small percentage of people with the condition need insulin shots.

Preventing Diabetes

The National Diabetes Education Program is a great place to add to your knowledge and develop your own plan to prevent diabetes. Talk to your primary care doctor for guidance and support – especially if you have any of the risk factors or are 45 and haven’t been tested yet.

Prevention is worth your time. The new screening recommendations take into account the benefit of prevention and the cost effectiveness of early detection when dealing with this disease. Take the time out and address this possibility; talk to your doctor today about lab work that can be easy to complete.

Meet the Author

Batul K. Valika, MD is an Endocrinologist at Aurora West Allis Medical Center and Aurora St. Luke's Medical Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Along with general endocrinology, Dr. Valika has a special interest in endocrine and reproductive disorders and gestational endocrinopathies.

Read more posts from this author

The information presented in this site is intended for general information and educational purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of your own physician. Contact your physician if you believe you have a health problem.

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