Blood Sugar Screening
Fasting blood sugar is a simple, inexpensive, non-invasive screening test for diabetes. Diabetes affects 8.3% of U.S. citizens and 27% of U.S. adults over the age of 65. Prediabetes, a precursor to diabetes, affects 35% of U.S. adults. Diabetes is therefore common and causes significant harm, including a greatly increased risk of heart, nerve, eye, and kidney disease, so screening for diabetes by testing fasting blood sugar is important.
As with other screening tests, guidelines for exactly when and how often this screening should occur vary from organization to organization. The American Diabetes Association (ADA), whose guidelines are commonly used, recommends annual screening for adults who are overweight and have one or more risk factors. The ADA also recommends screening every 3 years for all adults age 45 or older.
The following risk factors for diabetes are used in determining whether adults who are overweight should get annual blood sugar screening:
- Physical inactivity (less than 30 minutes of moderate activity 5+ times per week or less than 20 minutes of vigorous activity 3+ times per week)
- Family history of diabetes
- High risk ethnic population (native American, African American, Hispanic, Asian/south pacific islander)
- Delivered baby weighing greater than 9 lbs or has had gestational diabetes
- High blood pressure
- History of cardiovascular disease
- Dyslipidemia/high cholesterol (HDL<35 or triglycerides>250)
- Previous elevated fasting blood sugar or impaired glucose tolerance
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
Another great tool to assess diabetes risk is the diabetes risk score (DRS). The DRS uses 7 questions to determine your current and 10 year risk of getting diabetes. These are age, ethnicity, gender, family history of diabetes, waist size, body mass index, and any history or treatment for high blood pressure. Answering these does not tell someone whether they have diabetes, just what their risk of having it is. Using this test in combination with the fasting blood sugar test gives a very complete assessment of an individual’s current and future risk. The DRS can be found online at http://www.diabetes.org.uk/riskscore
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