Prediabetes is increasingly affecting children and young adults in the United States. A new survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has found that around one in five adolescents (ages 12–18) and one in four young adults (ages 19–34) in the U.S. are now living with prediabetes.
People diagnosed with this condition have an excess of sugar in their blood, but not high enough to be called diabetes, which can cause damage to the heart, kidneys, eyes and nerves over time. They're also at an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes and the complications associated with diabetes. However, by incorporating good eating and exercise habits, this diagnosis can oftentimes be reversed.
What Did the Study Find?
In examining the fasting blood sugar — glucose level after not eating for a specified period, usually overnight — of more than 5,000 participants, the researchers found that prediabetes was prevalent in 18% of adolescents and 24% of young adults. These individuals had a fasting blood sugar level between 100 and 125 mg/dl, which the American Diabetes Association (ADA) classifies as prediabetes.
The rate of prediabetes was higher in male participants, they found, and in those with obesity. Young Hispanic adults also had higher rates compared to young white adults. Participants with prediabetes had high levels of cholesterol, blood pressure and abdominal fat, and low insulin sensitivity.
What Causes Prediabetes?
Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that regulates the amount of sugar (glucose) in the blood. With insulin resistance, one of the most common causes of prediabetes, cells in the muscles, fat and liver don't respond well enough to insulin. As a result, glucose in the bloodstream isn't properly absorbed.
The pancreas will kick into overdrive to produce more insulin to manage this glucose. But if it can't, blood sugar levels will increase beyond normal levels. This can set the stage for prediabetes and, if left unmanaged, type 2 diabetes down the road.
If type 2 diabetes runs in your family or you're 45 years old or older, you may be at a higher risk for prediabetes. Scheduling regular visits with your doctor can help you keep tabs on your blood glucose levels and ensure it stays within a normal range.
What Prevention and Treatment Options Are There?
If your doctor says you're at risk for diabetes, here's what you need to know.
There are two types of diabetes. Type 1 is an autoimmune disease in which the body doesn't make insulin. It's usually diagnosed in children and young adults. Those with type 1 diabetes must take insulin every day to manage their blood sugar. Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body doesn't make or use insulin well. It's the most common form of diabetes and is usually diagnosed in adults.
Prediabetes can develop into type 2 diabetes. But with these simple lifestyle shifts, you can take charge of your health and better manage your blood sugar.
If you have questions about prediabetes prevention or a diagnosis, don't hesitate to reach out to your doctor. Additionally, you can try Glucerna's free Ask a Dietitian online chat service or participate in the CDC's National Diabetes Prevention Program.
Remember, neither prediabetes or diabetes has to disrupt your life. By making slight lifestyle changes and proactively seeking out information, you can manage your blood sugar and keep your health in tip-top shape.
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