Should You Be Tested for Diabetes?

More than 29 million Americans have diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

One out of four of them don’t know they have the disease. And 86 million more people have prediabetes. Studies show that up to 30 percent of people with prediabetes will develop type 2 diabetes within the next five years.

The consequences can be serious — even deadly. Diabetes is a 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.

Risk factors for diabetes

You may be 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, Alaska Native, Asian American, Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander
  • Are 45 or older
  • Have high blood pressure
  • Have a low level of HDL cholesterol or a high level of triglycerides
  • Have a history of heart disease or stroke
  • Had gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy)
  • Gave birth to a baby who weighed 9 pounds or more
  • Have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)

Who should get tested?

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force says that people ages 40 to 70 who are overweight or obese should get tested for diabetes. If you have risk factors for diabetes, talk with your doctor about whether testing is right for you.*

The tests

A high blood sugar reading on any of these tests may mean you have diabetes:

Fasting plasma glucose test (FPG) 
For the FPG, you fast overnight. Then your blood is drawn at a lab or doctor's office.

Oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) 
You fast for at least eight hours and then have your blood drawn. Next, you drink a sugary beverage — and have blood drawn one hour later and again two hours later.

Hemoglobin A1C test (HbA1C) 
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. It indicates your average blood sugar level over the past two or three months.

If you have diabetes

If your test results come back positive for diabetes, work closely with your doctor on a treatment plan. 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 should reduce your risk of complications.

Your doctor may suggest that other specialists be part of your care team. Check your benefit plan to see what services may be covered.

If you don’t have diabetes

If your blood sugar is in a healthy range — or if you have prediabetes — you can still take steps to help reduce your risk of the disease:

  • Lose weight. You may be able to prevent or delay diabetes by losing 5 to 7 percent of your body weight. That’s 10 to 14 pounds for someone who weighs 200 pounds.
  • Eat right. Your diet should be rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy foods and lean protein sources. Limit foods high in saturated and trans fats, sodium and added sugars.
  • Exercise regularly. Most healthy adults should aim for at least 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise a week. For safety’s sake, talk with your doctor before you significantly increase your activity level.
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What to do next

Talk with your doctor about whether a diabetes test is right for you.*


*Check your benefit plan to see what services may be covered.

The information provided here is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be nor should be construed as medical or other advice. Talk to an appropriate health care professional to determine what may be right for you.

Last updated June 2017

© 2017 United HealthCare Services, Inc.