Free Diabetes Testing

Lynne Shuster, M.D., director of the Office of Women's Health at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, shares her insight on testing for diabetes at the drugstore.

Q. I recently saw a sign for free diabetes screenings at my local drugstore. Are these tests trustworthy?

A. If you've never been tested for type 2 diabetes, and if you're over 45 or have risk factors—such as obesity, high blood pressure, or a family history—a free pharmacy screening is a great place to start.

A technician will prick your finger, collect a blood sample, and analyze its level of glucose (sugar) or hemoglobin A1C (an indicator of blood sugar control over several months). Within minutes, you'll have your results. A hemoglobin A1C level of 6.5 percent or more, or a random glucose level of 200 mg/dL or more, suggests possible diabetes. Understand, however, that rapid blood tests tend to be somewhat less reliable than those conducted at medical labs.

If your numbers are elevated or borderline, it's important to follow up with your doctor. Diabetes is a treatable but serious health problem that affects about 8 percent of adults in the United States.

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