The United States Preventive Services Task Force has issued a recommendation urging doctors to screen all overweight adults for diabetes.
The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has recommended blood sugar tests for all U.S. adults who are overweight between the ages of 40 and 70. According to a report from Reuters, the task force wants to screen for people with extremely high blood sugar, but no symptoms of diabetes, and recommend behavioral therapy.
The task force wants to prevent diabetes before it becomes a problem in as many people as possible. Adults with abnormally high blood sugar but no symptoms of diabetes would receive counseling in an effort to encourage better habits, like developing a better diet or exercising more. By preventing the disease before it starts, the USPSTF will save both individuals and the healthcare system as a whole from dealing with the disease.
In 2008, the USPSTF recommended diabetes screens for people with hypertension, but did not yet have enough evidence to recommend screens for people who were simply overweight but showed no diabetes symptoms.
The Task Force has been hard at work over the past seven years, completing six studies that offer evidence for lifestyle changes delaying or preventing diabetes. The new recommendation was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
According to Dr. Michael P. Pignone, from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, “Any test a primary care physician would do on a healthy person can have both potentially harmful outcomes. Because of that, it’s important to focus on screening tests that we know, on balance, are effective. The task force found screening adults ages 40 to 70 who are overweight or obese can identify individuals with abnormal blood glucose levels before it progresses to diabetes and that offering or referring them to intensive lifestyle interventions can help prevent or delay complications from the disease.” Pignone was also a member of the task force.
The USPSTF still isn’t sure how frequently people should receive blood screens for diabetes, but the latest computer models suggest that every three years would be a good time frame.
Roughly 40 percent of adults in the United States have abnormal levels of blood sugar, which could increase the risk of diabetes. The USPSTF isn’t alone in their recommendation, either; the National Institutes of Health, the American Heart Association, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also believe that improved diet and exercise could create a significant reduction in the number of adult diabetes cases in the country.
Certain people are still at risk of developing diabetes even if they aren’t overweight. Young people whose family has a history of the disease, women who developed diabetes while pregnant or have developed polycystic ovarian syndrome, and even certain racial and ethnic groups including African Americans, Native Alaskans, Native Americans, Asians Americans, Hispanics and Latinos, or Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, all face higher risks of diabetes regardless of weight and exercise levels.
Dr. Shelley Selph, of the Oregon Health and Science University in Portland and the head author of the recommendation for the USPSTF, believes that there is finally enough evidence to recommend testing for overweight adults in the U.S.
Obesity remains a major risk factor for diabetes, and controlling the disease is essential. Preventing or delaying the progression of diabetes with a healthy diet and physical activity can significantly lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and death.
People with multiple risk factors, regardless of their age, should get screened for diabetes. The physician should work with their patient to get the best sense of how necessary a screen would be.
Weight loss and staying active are usually recommended by most doctors anyway, but the new recommendation shows that they have good reason to recommend these things.