New guidelines recommend earlier diabetes screenings for overweight adults

New guidelines recommend earlier diabetes screenings for overweight adults
© Aaron Schwartz

Updated guidance from a federal health advisory group says that Americans who are overweight or obese should start screening for diabetes at age 35, replacing the currently recommended age of 40. 

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force said in its guidance, published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, that the updated recommendation was due to rising rates of obesity and Type 2 diabetes. 

Diabetes, which the task force identified as the leading cause of kidney failure and new cases of blindness among U.S. adults, is found among about 13 percent of those ages 18 and older, with about 35 percent meeting the criteria for prediabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

ADVERTISEMENT

The task force recommended lowering the age of screening five years and perhaps even younger for groups that experience disproportionately higher rates of diabetes, including Native Americans, Black Americans, Hispanic or Latino people and those with a family history of diabetes or related conditions. 

Diabetes screening, which the task force currently recommends for adults up to age 70, usually consists of blood tests to measure sugar levels, with some people first drinking a sugary liquid. 

The updated guidance also said that adults who record normal blood glucose levels should continue to get screened for diabetes every three years. 

According to the task force, diet and physical exercise can help prevent or delay diabetes in adults who meet criteria for prediabetes.

The drug metformin has also shown to have similar benefits, though the task force noted it has not yet been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for this specific use. 

The CDC lists diabetes as the seventh-leading cause of death in the U.S., and the condition can increase risks for cardiovascular disease, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and other illnesses. 

The new guidelines follow updated data from the CDC released in June that found that the death rate for diabetes had a 14 percent increase from 2019 to 2020, jumping from 21.6 deaths per 100,000 in 2019 to 24.6 per 100,000 last year. 

The death rate increase came as the CDC also recorded fatality surges for heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s, chronic liver disease, stroke and high blood pressure.