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Teenage diabetes rate doubles

September 4, 2012 in News

In 1999, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that about 9 percent of teens had diabetes or prediabetes.

Just ten years later, according to a study recently published in the journal Pediatrics, that rate is now 23 percent – almost a quarter of American teenagers.

These results were part of a larger analysis looking at risk factors for cardiovascular disease among Americans between the ages of 12 and 19 years. Researchers also looked at rates of obesity, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol, but found that the rates of these risk factors remained relatively stable.

While the rate of obesity in adolescents remained about the same, the overall percentage of American teenagers with obesity is 34 percent.

Researchers found that 60 percent of the obese teens in the study had at least one cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factor; about 50 percent of the overweight teens and 35 percent of those in the normal weight range also had at least one risk factor. This has serious implications for public health over the long term, especially given that CVD risk factors developed in childhood may remain present into adulthood.

All of these findings add up to a very high rate of obesity-related problems in the 12 to 19 age group. Rates of CVD risk factors this high were previously seen only in adults aged 40 or older. This could mean many young adults facing diabetes complications and heart attacks over the next couple of decades.

One of the study’s authors, Ashleigh May of the CDC’s division of nutrition, physical activity, and obesity, explained that the results of their research reinforce the pressing need for outreach and education about weight management and diabetes prevention. She stated that there is a great need for pediatricians to be vigilant about following current screening recommendations for CVD risk factors and diabetes. The importance of screening is especially high in teens who are overweight or obese, but should not be overlooked for other teens; as previously mentioned, 35% of teens in the normal weight range in the CDC study showed at least one CVD risk factor.

While these results are startling, Vivian Fonseca, president of medicine and science with the ADA, commented that with proper intervention, the progression of both diabetes and prediabetes can be slowed or halted. Numerous studies have supported the finding that even moderate changes to diet and physical activity can reduce a person’s risk of developing diabetes by nearly 60%. With improved efforts to screen teens for CVD and diabetes risk, combined with education on reducing these factors, there is a great potential to lessen the impact of the current trend.

The original news posting for this article can be found at Huffington Post’s website. The Pediatrics article, published in May 2012, can also be accessed online.


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