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Doctors lower age for prediabetes and diabetes screening

“Diabetes is a really important health problem in the United States and it’s a major risk factor for strokes and heart attacks."

TAMPA, Fla. — The process of screening for prediabetes and diabetes is getting a change. 

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recently dropped the recommended age from 40 to 35 for pre-screening of Type 2 diabetes and prediabetes, in people who are overweight or obese.

“Diabetes is a really important health problem in the United States and it’s a major risk factor for strokes and heart attacks. It’s actually the leading cause of both blindness and kidney failure, which can lead to limb amputations,” explains Dr. Michael Barry, vice-chair of the task force. 

He says about a third of Americans have prediabetes. 

“These are mild or elevations in blood sugar levels that aren’t quite diabetes yet, but put the person at a higher risk of progression to diabetes.”

Dr. Barry says the strongest risk factor is obesity, but if prescreening indicates you’re prediabetic, intervening can prevent its progression. “Improving your diet, increasing your exercise and the real goal is a weight loss. Even a modest weight loss of 5 to 10 pounds can make a difference,” he explains.

When it comes to testing, Dr. Barry explains, “the two most common ways are checking a fasting blood sugar or a test called a hemoglobin A1C. That test looks at, if you will, the cruising altitude of the blood sugar level over the previous three months and has the advantage of not requiring fasting.” If abnormalities are shown, doctors will confirm them with a follow-up test.

Lifestyle changes are the most effective way to combat elevated blood sugar levels and the risk associated with obesity. Many hospitals offer prevention programs, along with the YMCA.

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