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The Big Number: Overweight, obese people should get tested for diabetes starting at age 35

by Mary Sewell

Adults who are overweight or obese should now start getting tested for diabetes at age 35, according to a new recommendation from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. That is five years earlier than the federally appointed group of medical experts had previously recommended. The updated advice, published in the journal JAMA, aims to reduce the number of adults who have diabetes, now roughly 34 million people (13 percent of the U.S. adult population), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Excess weight is considered one of the most vital risk factors for diabetes. People with diabetes have too much glucose (sugar) in their blood.

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In addition, the CDC says that about 88 million adults have what is called prediabetes when blood sugar levels are higher than usual but not high enough to elicit a diabetes diagnosis. Prediabetes often progresses to full-fledged diabetes, however. The task force’s report noted that screening for prediabetes and diabetes at a younger age, done via a simple blood test, should enable earlier detection.

Diagnosis and treatment of a condition can cause serious, even life-threatening, health problems over time, including heart disease, vision loss, and kidney disease. Lifestyle modifications — healthier eating, more exercise, and weight loss — are necessary first steps in preventing or treating the condition. Under the Affordable Care Act, insurers must fully cover testing that has been endorsed by the task force, with no out-of-pocket costs to a patient.

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