Screening 'Test' Gauges Diabetes Risk

Questionnaire Looks at Age, Gender, Weight, and Lifestyle

Medically Reviewed by Elizabeth Klodas, MD, FACC on November 30, 2009
From the WebMD Archives

Nov. 30, 2009 -- Are you overweight? Do you exercise? Do you have high blood pressure or relatives who have diabetes? Are you male or female?

Researchers have developed a simple, six-question screening test designed to help you determine whether you might be one of many millions of Americans who have diabetes or prediabetes but don't know it.

The questionnaire is published in the Dec. 1 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine. It asks about your age, gender, health history, and lifestyle and then assigns points based on your answers. The total score (out of a possible maximum of 10) determines your risk of having diabetes.

There's no complex math involved, and your honest answers could save or prolong your life or help you head off serious problems caused by the disease. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to complete it, and there are online tools to help if you need them.

Here are some questions from the test, and an explanation of the scoring:

  • How old are you? There are four categories: less than 40, 40 to 49, 50 to 59, and 60 or older. For example, if you're less than 40, your score is zero, but if you're 60 or older, you get a 3.
  • Are you a woman or a man? If you're a female, give yourself another zero, but if you're a male, put yourself down for 1 point. Men are more likely than women to develop diabetes.
  • Do your family members (parents or siblings) have diabetes? If so, give yourself 1 point.
  • Do you have high blood pressure or are you on medication for high blood pressure? If so, give yourself 1 point.
  • Are you overweight or obese? If your body mass index (BMI) is under 25, you're OK, so just jot down a zero. If the number is 25.9 to 30, you're overweight, so give yourself 1 point. If it's over 30, you're obese, so jot down 3 points.
  • Are you physically active? If your answer is no, give yourself a zero, but if it's yes, subtract 1 point from the total.

So let's do the math. Let's say:

  • You're 62. Give yourself 3 points.
  • You're a man. Give yourself another point.
  • You have no parents or siblings with diabetes. Jot down a zero.
  • You don't have high blood pressure and you're not on high blood pressure medication. Jot down a zero.
  • You're 6 feet 1 inch or 74 inches tall, and weigh 185 pounds. That produces a BMI of 24.4. Jot down a zero.
  • You are physically active, which gives you the right to subtract 1 point from the total.

In this example, the score is 3.

This means you're at low risk for undiagnosed diabetes or prediabetes. A 4 or greater would have placed you in the high-risk category for the conditions, and a 5 or greater means you're at high risk for undiagnosed diabetes.

The researchers recommend that you see your doctor if your score is high.

Lead author Heejung Bang, PhD, of Weill Cornell Medical College, and colleagues didn't take the screening tool lightly. They analyzed data on 5,258 people, looking at their height, weight, and common risk factors, gathered through interviews, physical exams, and laboratory tests.

"We developed a screening score that can be used in a wide variety of community settings and clinical encounters," the authors write. "We believe it has good feasibility characteristics," is simple and takes very little time. "We see our screening score as a method of identifying persons in need of formal diabetes screening and of calling more attention to pre-diabetes."

The researchers say more than 60 million U.S. adults are estimated to have diagnosed diabetes, undiagnosed diabetes, or prediabetes -- with about 30% of diabetes patients being undiagnosed.

WebMD Health News



News release, American College of Physicians.

Bang, H. Annals of Internal Medicine, Dec. 1; vol 151: pp 775-783.

© 2009 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.