Such screening should continue until age 70, according to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, an independent, volunteer panel of national experts in prevention and evidence-based medicine.
“Health care providers can help people improve their health by screening those who are overweight or obese for prediabetes and diabetes,” said task force member Dr. Michael Barry, director of the Informed Medical Decisions Program and the Health Decision Sciences Center at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
“Screening and earlier detection can help prevent prediabetes and diabetes from getting worse and leading to other health problems,” Barry said in a task force news release. He is also a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.
One expert said the age change could make a real difference.
“From my perspective, these guidelines are important. Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney disease and blindness in the U.S., these are preventable diseases,” said Dr. Emily Gallagher, an assistant professor of medicine, endocrinology, diabetes and bone disease at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City. “Unfortunately, people are still often unaware that they have diabetes, and they only discover they have diabetes when they develop a complication such as a heart attack, or foot ulcer.”
But when screening catches prediabetes, lifestyle changes such as a healthier diet and increased exercise may help prevent diabetes and also lower weight, blood pressure and lipid levels, according to the task force.
“The clinical course of prediabetes and diabetes can be altered by earlier intervention,” Gallagher noted. “Newer therapies for diabetes can not only improve diabetes control, but also reduce the risk of developing chronic kidney disease and cardiovascular disease.”
Task force members said the same.
“The task force found there are effective ways to help people who have prediabetes lower their risk of diabetes and improve their overall health,” said member Dr. Chien-Wen Tseng. She is the Hawaii Medical Service Association endowed chair in health services and quality research, professor, and associate research director at the University of Hawaii John A. Burns School of Medicine.
“Clinicians and patients should discuss these benefits and choose the approach that works best for each individual,” Tseng said in the release.
The task force’s new draft recommendation updates a 2015 recommendation. A public comment period on the draft recommendation is open through April 12.
Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States and can lead to serious health problems such as heart disease, stroke, and limb amputation. Overweight/obesity is one of the biggest risk factors for prediabetes and diabetes.
The U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases has more on diabetes prevention.
SOURCES: Emily Gallagher, MD, assistant professor, medicine, endocrinology, diabetes and bone disease, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York City; U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, news release, March 16, 2021