Know Your Diabetes Risk: Take a Self Assessment

Should you get a blood sugar test? New tool helps you quickly assess risk of diabetes and prediabetes.

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With news that the prevalence of diabetes is expected to double in the next 25 years, it's a good time to think about your risk of diabetes and prediabetes and to start taking steps to lower it. A new self-assessment tool, published in a study in the December issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine, helps you determine your risk—and whether you should see a doctor for a blood glucose test right away.

It's believed that more than 60 million American adults have diabetes or prediabetes, and approximately 30 percent of the cases are undiagnosed. The new tool is intended for anyone who wants to know his or her risk, regardless of race, ethnicity, weight, or family history. The goal is to boost awareness through a method that can easily be used in the comfort of home or at a community health fair, says Heejung Bang, the lead author of the study and an associate professor of public health at Cornell Medical College.

To develop the assessment, researchers examined data from 5,258 study participants ages 20 and older, including fasting blood glucose results, demographic and socioeconomic information, healthcare use, family medical history, health habits, physical exams, and lab test results. People who had diabetes—diagnosed or undiagnosed—tended to be more sedentary and were typically older than people who didn't have diabetes. They also were more likely to have hypertension, a family history of diabetes, and higher body mass indexes, waist circumferences, and cholesterol levels.

To take the assessment developed in the study, published here with the permission of the Annals of Internal Medicine, answer the questions below. If your score is on the high side, you can take steps to address those risk factors—eating a healthful diet and exercising regularly, for example, to shed excess pounds.

Assessment for risk of diabetes and prediabetes:

  1. How old are you? (Less than 40 years old earns zero points, 40 to 49 years old gets one point, 50 to 59 years old two points, and 60 or older three.)
  2. Are you a woman or man? (Women get no points; men get one.)
  3. Do your family members (parent or sibling) have diabetes? (Zero points for no; one point for yes.)
  4. Do you have high blood pressure, or are you on medication for high blood pressure? (Zero points for no; one point for yes.)
  5. Are you overweight or obese? (Zero points if you're not overweight or obese; one point if you're overweight; two points if you're obese; three points if you're extremely obese.) People with a BMI of 40 or more (or with a waist circumference of 50 inches or more for men, 49 inches or more for women) are considered to be extremely obese. Those with a BMI between 30 and 39 (or with a waist size of 40 to 49 inches for men, 35 to 48 inches for women) are considered to be obese. And those with a BMI of 25 to 29 (or a waist size of 37 to 39 inches for men, 31.5 to 34 inches for women) are considered to be overweight. [Use U.S. News's online tool to calculate your BMI.]
  6. Are you physically active? (Zero points for no. Deduct one point from your total score if you answer yes.)

To calculate your total score, add up your points from all six questions. If your total is four or more, you are at high risk for undiagnosed diabetes or prediabetes. If your total is five or more, you're at high risk for undiagnosed diabetes. If your score falls into either category, see your doctor for a blood test to check your glucose level.