Nearly three out of 10 people who have diabetes don’t even know they have the disease. Find out if you should get tested.
Diabetes is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. It is also the leading cause of blindness, kidney failure and lower limb amputations in adults. Having diabetes raises your risk for heart disease, stroke, nerve damage and gum disease.
About 24 million people in the U.S. have diabetes. One fourth of them don’t know they have the disease. And 57 million more people have pre-diabetes. Studies show that many people with pre-diabetes will develop type 2 diabetes within the next 10 years.
The message is clear: diabetes is a dangerous disease that affects a lot of people. And, you can have diabetes or pre-diabetes and not know it.
Risk factors for diabetes
You are at an increased risk for type 2 diabetes if you:
- Are overweight
- Are not physically active
- Have a family history of diabetes
- Are African-American, Hispanic, American-Indian or Pacific Islander
- Are older than 45
- Have high blood pressure or high cholesterol
- Have a history of heart disease or stroke
- Had abnormal results on a previous diabetes test
- Had gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy)
- Gave birth to a baby who weighed 9 pounds or more
- Have another condition that affects how your body uses insulin, such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
Who should get tested
- If you are 45 years of age or older.
- If you are younger than 45, overweight and have one of the above risk factors – such as a family history of the disease – get tested now.
- If results come back normal, you should get tested for diabetes again once every three years. Your doctor may suggest more frequent screening if you have certain risk factors.
- Children who are overweight and have other risk factors for diabetes are at high risk for diabetes. They should be tested every two years starting at age 10 or at the onset of puberty, whichever comes first.
If your doctor suspects you have diabetes, he or she will send you for a fasting plasma glucose test (FPG), an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) or a Hemoglobin A1C Test (HbA1C.) A high blood sugar reading on any of these tests may mean you have diabetes. Your doctor will likely repeat the test on another day to be sure.
FPG test results:
For the FPG, you will fast overnight and then have your blood drawn at a lab or doctor’s office. A blood sugar reading of:
- 126 mg/dL or more likely means you have diabetes.
- 100 mg/dL to 125 mg/dL may mean you have pre-diabetes.
- 99 mg/dL or less means your blood sugar is normal.
You will fast for at least eight hours and then have your blood drawn at a lab. Next, you will drink a sugary beverage and have blood drawn again two hours later. After two hours, a blood glucose reading of:
- 200 mg/dL or more may mean you have diabetes.
- 140 mg/dL to 199 mg/dL likely means you have pre-diabetes.
- 139 mg/dL and below means your blood sugar is normal.
HbA1C test results:
The A1C test is a simple blood test that is usually performed in a lab. You don’t need to change your diet or medications before the A1C test. A small sample of blood will be drawn from a vein in your arm.
- 6.5 percent or higher may mean you have diabetes.
- 5.7 to 6.4 percent means you have prediabetes.
If you have diabetes
If your test results come back positive for diabetes, you will work on a treatment plan with your doctor. Your doctor may suggest that other specialists be part of your care team – such as a registered dietician, certified diabetes educator, podiatrist (foot care doctor) and ophthalmologist (eye doctor). Sometimes a diabetes specialist called an endocrinologist may be recommended.
The goal of managing your diabetes is to keep your blood sugar levels in check. It is important that you follow your treatment plan closely. Doing so will reduce your risk of complications.
If you don’t have diabetes
If your tests results show you are negative for diabetes or if you have pre-diabetes, you can take steps to reduce your risk of the disease:
- Lose weight. Research shows that reducing your body weight by 5 percent to 10 percent – 10 to 20 pounds for someone who weighs 200 pounds – can cut your diabetes risk in half.
- Eat right. Your diet should be rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy and lean protein sources. Limit foods high in saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, sodium and added sugars.
Exercise regularly. Work up to at least 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week. Always check with your doctor before you increase your activity level.