Is 25 the new 45 for diabetes screening? An expert tells you the bitter truth

World Health Day: With the growing issue of obesity, lifestyle diseases are on an upswing. Go for a diabetes screening before it's too late!
emotional eating
Avoid emotional eating. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
Dr. Neelkanth Kote Updated: 23 Oct 2023, 01:14 pm IST
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Type 2 diabetes is spreading rapidly with more than 537 million cases worldwide, according to a 2021 report by International Diabetes Federation. Recently, type 2 diabetes was referred to as ‘the modern preventable pandemic’ given its extensive global presence and innumerable health complications. Various technological and pharmaceutical advancements are underway worldwide to address this chronic disease. Screening for type 2 diabetes risk is a crucial step in preventing the onset of new cases. But the question is, at what age should you start type 2 diabetes screening for type 2 diabetes? And what are the tests you should get done?

We will answer these and more right here!

What is the right age to start diabetes screening

According to American Diabetes Association (ADA), individuals who are 45 years and older should screen for diabetes every three years, especially if they are overweight or obese. But with the younger population falling prey to this disease, is it helpful to wait until after 40s to check for diabetes?

diabetes test
You must test for diabetes to avoid complications later in life. Image courtesy:

Nearly three decades ago, type 2 diabetes was almost non-existent in young adults and children. But now, the diabetic demography has undergone a tectonic shift. Type 2 diabetes was also called adult-onset diabetes but now this title has been dropped owing to the rising adolescent population falling prey to it.

Several studies conducted worldwide bring forth the surprising increase in the number of children less than 19 years old with type 2 diabetes. One of the youngest case is of a 3-year-old girl in Texas. A World Health Organization (WHO) report suggests that every 1 in 10 children is at risk of type 2 diabetes in India.

Knowing that the cases of type 2 diabetes are rising in young adults under 30 years of age, it is only wise to start the diagnosis from around 25 years of age. It is high time that we declare 25 to be the new 45 to start your diabetes screening.

Also Read: Do you think Type 2 diabetes is only an adult disorder? It no longer holds true, say experts

What is the reason behind early diabetes onset?

The biggest risk factor for the onset of type 2 diabetes is being overweight and obesity. Obesity alone is responsible for the onset of 80–85 percent of diabetes cases. The obese population is rising steeply and so are the cases of newly diagnosed diabetics. World Health Organization (WHO) calls the problem of diabesity an ‘exploding nightmare’.

A substantial percentage of youth are becoming obese given the easy access to refined and processed food. The sedentary lifestyle has further exacerbated the problem making the younger population prone to getting diagnosed with diabetes. Stress to keep up with the fast-paced lifestyle adds to the problem of the growing obesogenic environment that has led people with less time for self-care. This has resulted in an increased percentage of obese and diabetic populations globally, especially among young adults.

To add to the risk, genetic factors via race, ethnicity, and inheritance may also play a role in the onset of diabetes and hence it is in the best interest to start diabetes screening at an early age.

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Also Read: 6 signs that indicate you have diabetes and need to get tested right away

What to test for diabetes screening?

While mentioning that screening for diabetes should begin around the mid-20s, it is also important to know what parameters should be tested.

obesity and diabetes
Poor lifesyles are leading to obesity, which is further causing issues such as diabetes. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Type 2 diabetes is a metabolic disorder that has its roots in a condition called insulin resistance. A person with insulin resistance is highly likely to develop multiple lifestyle diseases including obesity and diabetes. Hence, screening for insulin resistance at an early age can help predict the risk of diabetes onset.
The following few tests should be part of diabetes screening:

1. Fasting insulin levels:

With an unhealthy lifestyle, the levels of insulin rise constantly and become a cause of hormonal imbalance in the body. This results in complications at multiple levels in the body.

2. Insulin resistance:

Insulin resistance is the ultimate root cause of type 2 diabetes diagnosis. Usually, it takes a decade or more for an insulin resistant person to become diabetic. Hence, insulin resistance proves to be a great risk marker for diabetes.

3. Fasting blood sugar:

This measures the amount of glucose in your blood after 8-10 hours of fasting. High blood sugar levels are the diagnostic markers for diabetes.

4. HbA1c:

This indicates the amount of hemoglobin in blood caramelized by glucose. The higher is the percentage of hemoglobin coated, the more advanced your diabetes is.

5. Others:

Certain additional tests related to diabetes diagnosis and its complications include average blood glucose levels, urinary glucose levels and triglyceride levels.

Diabetes will also make you feel fatigued. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Additionally, look out for other signs like increasing waist size, hard non-pinchable belly, feeling fatigued too soon, weakening memory, lethargy, acne, upset digestion etc. They may seem insignificant but are often the early warning signs of insulin resistance and diabetes. If you notice any of these similar signs frequently, it is advisable to take a diabetes screening test.

Diabetes management tips

Type 2 diabetes stems from our poor lifestyle habits and hence, the management lies in the right interventions and well in time diagnosis. Resorting to a healthy lifestyle with regular exercise has been scientifically proven to reduce the risk of diabetes onset. Although there are medications available for the treatment of diabetes, the importance of right nutrition cannot be negated. Medicines do not solve or cure diabetes. They focus on the apparent symptom which will worsen the underlying condition.

Awareness about the adequate interventions and right choices can help in controlling the rising number of new cases of type 2 diabetes and even reverse the condition in people who are already diabetic.

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About the Author

Dr. Neelkanth Kote is a medical advisor and consultant diabetologist at AltLife ...Read More

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