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Teens: Same High Risk for Heart Disease, Double the Diabetes

Doctor with BP cuff  on a Young Woman

Almost a quarter of teens are at risk of or currently have diabetes, suggests a new government study published in the journal Pediatrics. Teens at risk of prediabetes or diabetes has risen sharply from 9 to 23 percent over the past decade.

If confirmed, as these findings need to be, the study notes, there are many serious health issues these teens may face as they age, including heart disease, which was the focus of this paper. Increasing numbers of type 2 diabetes also means more teens will have increased their risk of cancer in the years ahead.

For the study, researchers by the Centers for Disease Control pulled data from almost 3,400 teenage (ages 12 to 19) participants of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). The survey regularly collects data on diet, activity and health measures.

When comparing NHANES data from 1999 to 2008, researchers found that the percent of teens at risk for heart disease remained relatively constant but high over the decade. Almost half of overweight teens had at least one risk factor for heart disease. About 14 percent of US adolescents had or were at risk for hypertension during the surveyed decade. The prevalence of teens having high LDL cholesterol – low-density lipoprotein, the so-called bad cholesterol – was 22 percent.

The more adolescents weighed, the more likely they were to be at risk. About one-third of normal-weight teens had at last one risk factor for heart disease; 61 percent of obese teens had at least one risk factor.

The study identified the prevalence of diabetes and prediabetes using a single measure: fasting blood glucose. The test is commonly used to check for diabetes but it may be unreliable in children, the authors write, so these findings should be taken with caution.

Source: Ashleigh L. May, Elena V Kuklina, Paula W. Yoon. “Prevalence of Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors Among US Adolescents, 1999−2008.” Pediatrics. Published online May 21, 2012.

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