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Are You at the Age to Get Tested for Diabetes?

separator It can be hard to get a handle on whether age affects your diabetes risk. Even the names of diabetic conditions can be confusing. Type 2 diabetes, the most common form, is often called “adult-onset” diabetes for an obvious reason: type 2 rarely used to occur in children. But now, more and more children are finding out they have the condition. Type 1, sometimes called juvenile diabetes, can actually be diagnosed in people of any age, although it is more common to find out you have type 1 in childhood.

How old should you be to get tested for diabetes?
According to the National Institute for Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disorders (NIDDK), anyone who is 45 or older should consider getting tested for diabetes, simply because the risk for diabetes increases with age. If you are 45 or older and you’re overweight (see the NIDDK’s BMI chart ), the NIDDK “strongly recommends” you get tested for diabetes.

If you are younger than 45 and overweight, and if you have one or more of the following risk factors, you should get tested for diabetes:
  • Having a parent, brother or sister with diabetes
  • Being African-American, American Indian, Asian American, Pacific Islander or Hispanic/Latino
  • Having had diabetes when you were pregnant, or giving birth to a baby that weighed more than 9 pounds
  • Having blood pressure of 140/90 or higher, or having been told that you have high blood pressure
  • Having high cholesterol (usually with an HDL, or “good” count, of 35 or lower)
  • Having high blood triglycerides (usually 250 or higher)
  • Being fairly inactive (exercising fewer than three times per week)

If your doctor doesn’t suggest a diabetes test, don’t hesitate to ask for one or to discuss your risk.

Youth itself: no protection from risk
Type 2 diabetes used to be rare in children, but now about 300,000 children have the condition. Many health professionals have linked this increase to overweight and inactivity, although it’s so new to be seeing type 2 in kids that it’s impossible to say for sure what all the causes may be. Read the article in this month’s issue about why it’s so important for young people with diabetes to keep their blood sugar under control.

The bottom line: getting tested can’t hurt
Maybe you’re still not sure whether you should get tested. Maybe you feel like you’re on the borderline in terms of risk factors. But the truth is there’s no harm in finding out whether you have diabetes or not. According to the American Diabetes Association, about 17 million people in the U.S.—that’s 6.2 percent—have diabetes, but about 5.9 of those don’t know they have it.

Getting tested can also detect whether you have pre-diabetes. Most people who have diabetes had pre-diabetes first. When you have pre-diabetes, there’s a good chance that you can prevent or put off actual diabetes by changing your diet and getting some exercise every day.

Not knowing you have diabetes is not a good situation. It’s important to know where you stand, because as soon as you know, you can start making changes to get your blood sugar under control. The longer your blood sugar is not in control, the higher your risk of developing serious complications in the future.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; National Institute for Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disorders
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