Prediabetes: an emerging health threat can lead to type 2 diabetes

Prediabetes: an emerging health threat can lead to type 2 diabetes
© iStocl/ af_istocker

A new study has shown that nearly one in five adolescents aged 12-18 years, and one in five young adults aged 19-34 years, are living with prediabetes.

Prediabetes is a health condition in which blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not yet high enough to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes. The condition also increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, chronic kidney disease, heart disease, and stroke.

Monitoring the percentage of adolescents and young adults with prediabetes can help determine the future risk of type 2 diabetes.

The findings come according to a new CDC study published in JAMA Pediatrics.

Prediabetes in young people

CDC Director Robert R. Redfield, said: “The prevalence of prediabetes in adolescents and young adults reinforces the critical need for effective public health strategies that promote healthy eating habits, physical activity, and stress management.

“These lifestyle behaviours can begin early in a child’s life and should continue through adolescence and adulthood to reduce onset of type 2 diabetes.”

Some of the key findings from the study are:

  • Nearly one in five (18%) adolescents (those aged 12-18) and one in four (24%) young adults (aged 19-34 years) were living with prediabetes;
  • The percentage of adolescents and young adults living with prediabetes was higher in males and participants with obesity;
  • Hispanic young adults had higher rates of prediabetes compared to white young adults; and
  • Adolescents and young adults with prediabetes had significantly higher cholesterol levels, systolic blood pressure, abdominal fat and lower insulin sensitivity than those with normal glucose tolerance, which increased their risk of type 2 diabetes and other cardiovascular diseases.

Ann Albright, director of CDC’s Division of Diabetes Translation, said: “We’re already seeing increased rates of type 2 diabetes and diabetes-related complications in youth and young adults, and these new findings are evidence of a growing epidemic and a tremendously worrisome threat to the future of our nation’s health.

“Additional research is needed to support the development of interventions for youth and increasing access to programmes that we know work for young adults, like the CDC-led National Diabetes Prevention Program.”

The impact of lifestyles

Research shows that adults with prediabetes who take part in a structured lifestyle-change programme, including weight management and exercise, can cut their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 58% (71% for people over 60 years old).

Participation in the CDC-led National Diabetes Prevention Program lifestyle change programme can help prevent or delay type 2 diabetes in those at high risk. The programme, available to those aged 18 and older, is taught by trained lifestyle coaches, and encourages healthy, whole-life changes to help participants address barriers to improved nutrition, increased physical activity and coping mechanisms for stress reduction.

Parents can also help turn the tide on prediabetes by encouraging healthy eating and increased physical activity. They can aim for their children to get 60 minutes of physical activity a day.

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