About a third of adults in the United States have high blood sugar levels, a condition called prediabetes that often precedes type 2 diabetes and can progress to a full-blown disease. Most are unaware that they have the condition that doesn’t cause any obvious symptoms and which is why a check-up is essential, said Dr. Barry.
Overweight or obesity is the most important risk factor for the most common form of diabetes, type 2 diabetes and for prediabetes. Lifestyle changes – including increasing physical activity, eating healthier diets, and even losing little weight – can prevent prediabetes from progressing to full-blown diabetes. (Drug treatment is also an option.)
Screening generally includes a blood test to see if blood sugar (or glucose) is increased. The task force called for the initial screening age to be reduced to 35 years, as the prevalence of type 2 diabetes would then slowly increase. Screening should be done every three years until the age of 70, the task force said.
Dr. Tannaz Moin, an endocrinologist who wrote an editorial on the new recommendations, said lowering the age for screening is a step in the right direction and she is pleased that the guidelines emphasize the importance of detecting prediabetes.
“There’s a lot more recognition that prediabetes is a big problem that often goes under the radar,” she said. Identifying prediabetes in younger adults is important because they can live with diabetes for long periods if they develop it at a relatively young age and are at greater risk of developing complications.
Intense lifestyle interventions that focus on moderate weight loss and include 150 minutes of physical activity per week can prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes in overweight or obese people with prediabetes. One drug, metformin, is also an option, but not as beneficial as lifestyle change.
“We have really good evidence that we can delay the onset of type 2 diabetes if we can get people with prediabetes to do something about their risk,” said Dr. Hello. “This also applies to people with type 2 diabetes: as soon as we know they have it, we have a whole range of things to offer them.”