Aug 24, 2021 - Health

U.S. task force lowers recommended age for type 2 diabetes screening to 35

Photo illustration of a doctor taking a patient's blood pressure at a remote clinic for the uninsured in rural New York state

Photo Illustration: Sarah Grillo. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force on Tuesday lowered the recommended starting age to screen for type 2 diabetes from age 40 to 35, and said overweight or obese adults at risk for prediabetes should be screened at ages 35 to 70.

Why it matters: Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure and new cases of blindness in the U.S. and is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. About 13% of U.S. adults have diabetes and another 35% are prediabetic, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The big picture: The new guidelines, published in the medical journal JAMA, emphasized the importance of screenings in people with no symptoms, saying 21% of Americans with diabetes are often not aware or did not report having diabetes.

  • The USPSTF and American Diabetes Association are also sounding alarms on the increasing prevalence of abnormal glucose metabolism and diabetes in younger adults, especially among at-risk racial and ethnic groups, a JAMA editorial notes.

State of play: The guidelines apply to adults that have no symptoms of diabetes but with risk factors including being overweight or obese, older age and having family members with diabetes.

  • Besides lifestyle changes like diet and exercise, diabetes can be treated with a variety of medications.
  • The task force also recommended that clinicians offer or refer patients with prediabetes to effective preventive interventions.

Of note: In a separate study, researchers found diagnosed cases of type 1 and type 2 diabetes are surging among youth in the U.S.

  • From 2001 to 2017, the number of people 20 years old and younger living with type 1 diabetes increased by 45%, and the number living with type 2 diabetes grew by 95%.

What they're saying: “Lowering the age requirement down to 35 for those that are overweight or obese is a step in the right direction," Robert Gabbay, chief scientific and medical officer for the ADA, told Axios.

  • "There is still the opportunity to extend screening further — for example, those with a history of gestational diabetes, to younger ages with risk factors given the alarming increase in diabetes youth," he added.
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