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Screening For Diabetes: Using Age, Instead Of Weight, Can Identify More People With Prediabetes, Diabetes

Screening For Diabetes: Using Age, Instead Of Weight, Can Identify More People With Prediabetes, Diabetes
It is harder to control diabetes, if diagnosed late.

All adults aged 35 and above should be screened for diabetes, regardless of their weight, says researchers from the Northwestern University.

Written by Longjam Dineshwori |Updated : March 30, 2023 1:55 PM IST

Being overweight or obese is believed to be the main culprit behind diabetes, and hence diabetes screening is usually done based on weight. But in doing so, we are likely to miss some people from racial and ethnic minority groups, who develop prediabetes and diabetes at lower weights, argued a research team from the Northwestern University in the U.S.

According to them, screening for diabetes should be based on age, as it will identify greater number of adults with prediabetes and diabetes, across all racial and ethnic groups. They propose diabetes screening all adults aged 35 to 70 years, regardless of their weight or body mass index (BMI). Currently, in the US, diabetes screening is recommended for only individuals aged 35 to 70 years who are overweight or obese.

Racial and ethnic disparitiesexist in diabetes prevalence

People from racial and ethnic minority groups (particularly Asian Americans) develop diabetes at lower weights compared to white adults, and diabetes diagnosis is also often delayed in these groups, the researchers noted.

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They cautioned that it is harder to control the disease, if diagnosed late, and patients are more likely to develop diabetes complications, affecting the heart, eyes and kidneys, and they are also at higher risk of dying.

Lead investigator Dr. Matthew O'Brien pointed out that there's an unacceptable racial and ethnic disparities in diabetes prevalence, and hence "we need a screening approach that maximizes equity."

If we use age, not weight, to screen for diabetes, we can find more people with prediabetes and diabetes earlier. This will help reduce these gaps as well as the bad outcomes that follow, he suggested.

Diabetes risk in Asian American adults

Asian American adults are most likely to be missed in the diabetes screening, as they usually develop the disease at a normal weight, stated the Northwestern University study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Diabetes is a major public health concern in the U.S., where almost half of adults have Type 2 diabetes or prediabetes. It is estimated that 6 million Asian Americans have prediabetes or undiagnosed diabetes. Most adults with prediabetes will eventually develop diabetes, but sadly, the majority of US adults with prediabetes (81 per cent) are not aware of having the condition, the researchers highlighted.

Dr. O'Brien also opined that making decisions about diabetes screening based on age alone will be simpler to implement for clinicians, which may further increase acceptance and application of this screening approach.

Be ware of the risk factors for type 2 diabetes

There are several factors that can increase your chances of developing type 2 diabetes, these include:

  • Overweight or obesity
  • Age (diabetes risk increases as a person gets older, 35 years and above)
  • Having prediabetes
  • Family history (having a parent, brother, or sister with type 2 diabetes)
  • Lack of physically activity
  • History of gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy)
  • Having non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
  • Race or ethnicity (African American, American Indian, Asian American, Hispanic/Latino, or Pacific Islander)

You avoid some of these risk factors and prevent or delay developing type 2 diabetes with healthy lifestyle changes. If you're overweight, focus on losing weight, eat a healthy diet, and get regular physical activity.

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