Diabetes and hypertension are two major health threats throughout the world.
Data from the National Diabetes 2017 Fact Sheet show that 30.3 million people of all ages—or 9.4% of the U.S. population—had diabetes in 2015.
- 7.2 million (23.8%) were not aware of or did not report having diabetes.
- The percentage of adults with diabetes increased with age, reaching a high of 25.2% among those aged 65 years or older
Screening for diabetes and hypertension are large factors in early prevention and treatment of illnesses that often result in significant complications.
In some cases, diabetes isn’t found until a person undergoes routine blood tests for another condition or they experience complications they can’t explain and see their physician.
However, due to heightened media attention and better education of the middle-aged population, more people are starting to recognize the signs and symptoms of this progressive disease.
If the disease isn’t diagnosed until the later stages, significant damage may have already been done to the eyes, kidneys, nerves and heart muscle. These complications are costly financially, emotionally, and puts great stress on most family relationships.
Unfortunately, researchers have found that diabetes and hypertension (high blood pressure, tend to go together.
Early detection and treatment will help improve the control of blood glucose, lipids (fatty acids) and blood pressure (itself another major health threat in the U.S.).
Hypertension increases the risk of heart disease, strokes and can result in damage to the kidneys and liver.
People who have been diagnosed with either condition need to be routinely screened for the other.
Screening tests should also be performed on:
- people with a family history of diabetes
- those who are overweight
- people over the age of 45
- people with a diagnosis of hyperlipidemia, (increased lipids such as cholesterol) in the bloodstream.
Women who have a history of gestational diabetes, or who have delivered a baby weighing over 9 pounds, are also at higher risk for diabetes and hypertension.
The typical screening tests are a quick dipstick urine test to check for protein in the urine as well as a blood pressure measurement.
- Patients who are spilling protein in their urine have a greater chance of having kidney (also called “renal”) damage, which may have resulted from either diabetes or hypertension.
- A fasting blood sugar is the standard test for diabetes. It’s a simple blood test which is taken after eight hours of complete fasting. It’s a reliable test, but it will need a follow-up test if there’s any sign of elevated blood sugar.
A more extensive test to confirm the diagnosis of diabetes is called the oral glucose tolerance test.
- During this test, the patient is asked to drink a product containing 75 g of glucose after having fasted for eight hours.
Precaution: Vomiting is possible due to the high concentration of sugar in the liquid, being taken on an empty stomach.
- Blood samples are then taken every half-hour and the urine tested every hour.
This test measures the body’s response to a high load of glucose. The results help the physician make a correct diagnosis of diabetes and indicates how much insulin or oral hypoglycemic to prescribe initially.
Once a person has been diagnosed with diabetes, a blood test called “glycosylated hemoglobin” (or hemoglobin A1 C), is drawn to find the severity of diabetes over time.
- The test is normally repeated every six months to get an exact picture of the glucose control over the previous six months.
Screening for hypertension is much simpler…It only involves taking the blood pressure while sitting, standing or both. At the same time, the patient may be screened for heart disease which may include a blood test to check cholesterol, an EKG and a chest x-ray.
Screenings for diabetes and hypertension are especially important for people with known risk factors such as a family history, as the results will show any diet or lifestyle changes they need to make to prevent complications.