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Type 2 diabetes, the sixth leading cause of death in Americans, has become a concern for children and adolescents. About 177,000 young people under 20 years of age have diabetes. Developing the disease early in life means the individual will most likely suffer many more of the damaging blood sugar spikes. This increases the risk of serious health problems earlier in adulthood, such as heart disease, kidney failure, blindness, and foot amputations due to nerve damage.
Overweight, obesity, and physical inactivity are all contributing factors, and they too have become national health problems. As public health experts work to educate Americans on what to do to avoid this disease and its serious complications, parents and teens should be aware that eating habits and activity choices can be changed to lower an individual’s risk of developing diabetes and of suffering the complications from the disease as their lives progress.
An overweight youth with just 2 other known risk factors faces a substantial risk of having or developing type 2 diabetes, warns the American Diabetes Association. The following risk factors are important to monitor:
- A close relative with type 2 diabetes
- American Indian, Alaska Native, African American, Latino/Hispanic, Asian American, or Pacific Islander
- Signs of or conditions associated with insulin resistance, including , hypertension, , or polycystic ovarian syndrome
- Birth mother has diabetes or had gestational diabetes
The American Diabetes Association makes the following screening recommendation:
- An overweight youth who has 2 or more other risk factors should be screened every 2 years for diabetes, starting at 10 years of age or the onset of puberty.
A fasting plasma glucose (FPG) test or a 2-hour oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) can be used to screen for diabetes (see Glucose test).
Information to help parents and teens learn how to lower the chances of developing diabetes is available from the Joslin Diabetes Center and the American Diabetes Association.
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US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC issues statements on diabetes issues: lifetime risk for diabetes mellitus in the United States. (Original source: Naryan KMB, et al. Lifetime risk for diabetes mellitus in the United States. Oct 2003. JAMA 8;290(14):1884-1890.) Available on the Internet at http://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/news/docs/lifetime.htm through http://www.cdc.gov. Accessed 30 Aug 2004 and 9 Jan 2008.
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National Diabetes Education Program, National Institutes of Health. Resources on children and adolescents. Available on the Internet at http://www.ndep.nih.gov/diabetes/youth/youth.htm through http://www.ndep.nih.gov. Accessed 30 Aug 2004 and 8 Jan 2008.