Elizabeth Renstrom for TIME
By Alexandra Sifferlin
October 26, 2015
TIME Health
For more, visit TIME Health.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) is recommending that adults between ages 40 to 70 who are overweight or obese be screened for abnormal blood sugar. The guidelines are considered a way to lower the risk of developing heart diseases and type 2 diabetes.

Having abnormal blood sugar metabolism is a risk factor for heart disease and could progress to diabetes in some people. The Task Force reviewed the available research and found evidence to support screening for abnormal blood sugar before it can progress to diabetes. The Task Force previously did not factor weight into its recommendations and instead recommended screening for type 2 diabetes in asymptomatic adults with high blood pressure in 2008. The new guidelines are an update to those recommendations.

Abnormal blood sugar happens when they body doesn’t break down and use sugar in the right way. It’s not as severe as full blown type 2 diabetes, and if people make changes like eating healthier and increasing their physical activity, data suggests they can prevent or delay type 2 diabetes.

That’s why the Task Force also recommends doctors either offer or refer patients with abnormal blood sugar to intensive behavioral counseling interventions that encourage a healthy diet and exercise. “Since the last time the Task Force reviewed evidence on this topic, new evidence has shown the effectiveness of treating adults with abnormal blood sugar with intensive lifestyle intervention,” says Task Force member Dr. Michael Pignone in an email to TIME.

According to national data from 2012, approximately 86 million Americans aged 20 years or older have glucose abnormalities and around 15% to 30% of these people will go on to develop type 2 diabetes within 5 years if they do not make lifestyle changes to improve their health, the researchers write in their report.

The group underlines the fact that type 2 diabetes is a disease that’s risen in prevalence over the last 15 years, and says physicians should continue to screen high risk individuals in order to keep diabetes at bay, even if people are asymptomatic.

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