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2 Million U.S. Youths Have Prediabetes

Condition Can Be Reversed; Left Unchecked, May Lead to Diabetes, Heart Disease
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Nov. 7, 2005 -- An estimated 2 million American youths have prediabetes, the CDC and NIH report.

In prediabetes, the body doesn't handle blood sugar as well as it should, but not as poorly as in diabetes.

Prediabetes is often a step on the path to type 2 diabetes. It also raises the risk of heart disease.

But, prediabetes may not be a one-way ticket to those problems. There could still be time to turn things around. But it takes sustained effort, and the clock is running.

Kids aren't the only ones with prediabetes. Many grown-ups have it, too.

An estimated 41 million Americans have prediabetes, nearly 21 million have diabetes, and many don't know they have those problems, the CDC reported in October.

National Numbers

The new figures are based on a national survey of 471 boys and 444 girls aged 12-19 years.

The kids represented their peers nationwide. About 16% were overweight, based on their body mass index (BMI).

The kids took a blood sugar test after fasting for at least eight hours. The test checked for impaired fasting glucose -- problems handling blood sugar after fasting.

Key Findings

Seven percent of all participants had impaired fasting glucose. That translates to about 2 million adolescents nationwide, the researchers write.

Impaired fasting glucose was more common among boys than girls. It was seen in one in 10 boys and one out of 25 girls.

Being overweight -- especially around the waist -- raised the odds. Impaired fasting glucose was seen in one in 16 overweight adolescents and one in four with large waists.

Mexican-American adolescents were more likely than whites or blacks to have impaired fasting glucose (13% of Mexican-Americans, 7% of whites, and 4% of blacks).

Further Hazards

Kids with impaired fasting glucose were also more likely to have other heart risks.

They tended to have higher levels of LDL "bad" cholesterol and lower levels of HDL "good" cholesterol.

They also were more likely to have higher systolic blood pressure. That's the first number in a blood pressure reading.

The survey was done in 1999-2000. More recent trends aren't covered. The researchers included the CDC's Desmond Williams, MD. The study appears in Pediatrics.

Second Study

Another study in Pediatrics raises related concerns.

It tracks metabolic syndrome, a cluster of health conditions that make diabetes and heart disease more likely.

Those traits include abdominal obesity measured by elevated waist circumference, high blood pressure, impaired fasting glucose, poor cholesterol levels, and high levels of blood fats called triglycerides. Metabolic syndrome means having three or more of those problems.

Approximately 1,200 black and white girls were followed for a decade, starting at age 9 or 10 years.

At first, only one girl of each race met the clinical criteria for metabolic syndrome. Ten years later, 20 black girls (3.5%) and 12 white girls (2.3%) had it.

The researchers included John Morrison, PhD. He works in the cardiology division of Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.

Nip Diabetes in the Bud

Adults with prediabetes can cut their diabetes risk by making lifestyle changes, such as boosting physical activity and upgrading their eating habits.

Is that also true for kids and teens? It's likely but not yet proven, write the CDC and NIH researchers.

Prediabetes doesn't always show symptoms without a lab test. Consult a doctor to find, fix, or prevent prediabetes and metabolic syndrome in people of any age.

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People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.

Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.

However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.

Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.

One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

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