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YOUR HEALTH: Checking your blood sooner

Testing for diabetes at an earlier age could help prevent the disease

CLEVELAND — When it comes to your health, it's always a case where the sooner you know about a condition, the better.

160 million Americans are overweight or obese, putting them at higher risk for developing Type two diabetes. 

The U.S. Preventive Service Task Force has now lowered the recommended age for first screening in overweight and obese adults from age 40 to age 35.

"Basically, we do blood draw, and we look for what's called a fasting glucose," explained Cleveland Clinic endocrinologist Dr. Mary Vouyiouklis Kellis.

"We also check a hemoglobin A1C test, which is a marker of your blood sugar over a three-month period of time."

People with diabetes sometimes have excessive thirst, fatigue, and weight loss. 

But sometimes, they have no symptoms. 

The new recommendations also address prediabetes, higher than normal blood sugar, that has not progressed to diabetes, yet. 

Pre-diabetes can increase your risk of high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

"We do know that about 24 percent of people who are aged 18 to 44 have prediabetes," said Dr. Kells.

If you experience an increased thirst, frequent urination, extreme hunger, unexplained weight loss, have a presence of ketones in the urine, fatigue, irritability, blurred vision, slow-healing sores, or frequent infections, such as gums or skin infections and vaginal infections you may have diabetes.

"So, it's conceivable that by screening these people earlier, we'll be catching this earlier, especially when some people don't have symptoms," said Dr. Kellis.

She says lifestyle changes, starting with losing seven to 10% of a person's body weight could help people with prediabetes bring their blood sugar levels into a normal range and reduce the risk of diabetes by 58%.

Type 1 diabetes research

Type 1 diabetes is caused by an autoimmune attack of insulin-producing beta-cells. 

While genetics and the environment are known to play important roles, the underlying factors explaining why the immune system mistakenly recognize beta-cells as foreign is not known. 

Now, Thomas Delong, PhD, has discovered a potential explanation

He found that proteins called Hybrid Insulin Peptides are found on beta-cells of people with type 1 diabetes and are recognized as foreign by their immune cells. 

Even after diabetes onset, immune cells are still present in the blood that attack these HIPs. 

Next, Delong wants to determine if HIPs can serve as a biomarker to prevent or treat type 1 diabetes.

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at jim.mertens@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.