(BlackDoctor.org) — More than 3 million African Americans have been diagnosed with diabetes. Researchers say for every African American diagnosed with diabetes, there is one with diabetes who doesn’t know it. Early screening can help people with diabetes detect it and treat it early on.
The current recommendation is that people, especially those who are overweight, begin getting screened for type 2 diabetes at age 45. A new study suggests it is beneficial to start screenings for type 2 diabetes as early as age 30.
Researchers determined that diabetes screening started between the ages of 30 and 45 and repeated every 3 to 5 years reduces the risk of diabetes-related heart attacks, complications and death.
Dr. Richard Kahn and other researchers simulated seven screening strategies for type 2 diabetes including: beginning screening at age 30 and repeating screening every three years; starting at age 45 and repeating screening every year; or waiting until age 60 and repeating the test every three years.
The researchers found that all screening beginning between ages 30 and 45 is most cost effective when compared to later screening.
Why Screening is Important
“This study shows us that screening in ages 30 to 45 will probably make a difference in number of people diagnosed with heart disease, kidney disease and other morbidities,” said Dr. Rita Louard, director of the Clinical Diabetes Center at Montefiore Medical Center.
Many people with diabetes were not diagnosed until years after the disease began because diabetes does not have many symptoms early on. Research shows the earlier treatment for diabetes begins the less likely the risk of diabetes related complications.
How Screening Works
If you have risk factors for diabetes, talk to your doctor about getting screened. Your doctor can perform tests to help determine if you have diabetes or pre-diabetes.
• Fasting Plasma Glucose. The fasting plasma glucose (FPG) test is the standard test for diabetes. It is a simple blood test taken after 8 hours of fasting. It is recommended to take the FPG test more than once to increase reliability. Diabetes is diagnosed when FPG levels in blood are 126 mg/dL or higher.
• Glucose Tolerance Test. The oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) is more complex than the FPG. Some experts recommend it as a follow-up after FPG if the test results are normal but the patient has symptoms or risk factors of diabetes. For the OGTT, your blood will be drawn then you will be asked to drink a sweet liquid containing glucose. Next, blood is taken in one-hour intervals. The test tells your doctor how quickly glucose is metabolized from the bloodstream. A blood glucose level less than 140 mg/dL two hours after drinking the liquid is considered normal. Between 140-200 mg/dL indicates prediabetes and levels more than 200 mg/dL indicate diabetes.
What to do After Screening
Even if your screening comes back normal you still have work to do. You can help prevent type 2 diabetes by exercising regularly, eating a balanced diet low in fat and sugars, and maintaining a healthy weight. If you still have risk factors for diabetes, continue getting screened every three to five years.
Your doctor will tell you what to do next if you are diagnosed with diabetes. Ask your doctor lots of questions and read as much as you can about the disease. Understanding diabetes can help prepare you for the necessary lifestyle changes ahead of you.