Diabetes: American Teens Currently at High Risk


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Diabetes in American teenagers is at all time high, according to recent studies by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 1999, nearly 9% of kids either had diabetes or pre-diabetes, though that number has jumped to an astronomical 23% in 2008. Interestingly, the percentage of obesity in children between the ages of 12 and 19 has essentially remained the same.

Ashleigh May, an epidemiologist with the CDC, says that education and screening are important elements in preventing this problem from getting worse. "Pediatricians and other healthcare providers who work with adolescents need to be aware of, and follow through with, screening guidelines and recommendations for obesity and also other cardiovascular risk factors, and suggest appropriate behavioral interventions," she explained.

The June issue of Pediatrics presents findings of a biannual survey that involved 3,383 adolescents from across the nation. After interviewing each one and performing physical examinations, researchers found that body mass index directly relates to the child's chance of developing cardiovascular disease later in life. Nearly 49% of overweight children were at risk for developing problems, while 61% of those classified as obese could find themselves in dire straits if changes weren't applied to their lifestyles. Kids with normal weight, meanwhile, had a 37% risk.

Although cardiovascular disease is rare in children, factors such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and unhealthy cholesterol levels can ultimately lead to complications down the road.

The silver lining is that risks for heart disease, such as high blood pressure and high LDL cholesterol, are relatively the same as they were a decade ago.