Prediabetes Is on the Rise in Teenagers

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prediabetes
Ryan Farrell, MD
Ryan Farrell, MD

Prediabetes occurs when blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not yet high enough to be considered diabetes. We usually think of this as a problem for adults. But it’s a growing concern in teens as well. In the United States, about one in five youth ages 12 to 18 now have prediabetes, a recent study in JAMA Pediatrics showed.

Having prediabetes increases the chances of getting Type 2 diabetes. Plus, the study found that teens with prediabetes also have higher blood pressure and cholesterol levels, which raise their risk for heart disease and stroke.

Should Your Teen Get Tested?

Prediabetes is closely tied to obesity in teens. Other factors that increase your child’s risk of developing prediabetes and Type 2 diabetes include:

  • Having a close relative with Type 2 diabetes
  • Being born to a mom who had gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy)
  • Being of African American, Latino, Native American/Alaskan Native, Asian American or Pacific Islander descent

A blood test can tell whether someone has prediabetes. If your teen is overweight and has at least two other risk factors, ask your health care provider about testing.

Help Your Teen Avoid Diabetes

“Whether or not your child has prediabetes, there’s a lot you can do to help keep Type 2 diabetes at bay,” says Ryan Farrell, MD, a pediatric endocrinologist at UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital. “Promote healthy eating and physical activity with these tips.”

  • Include more fruits and vegetables in meals and snacks.
  • Grocery shop together. Teach your child to read food labels and make smart choices.
  • Dish up sensible portions. Keep serving dishes off the table.
  • Encourage joining a sports team or fitness class. Let your child choose the activity.
  • Plan active family outings, such as hikes and bike rides.

“Lifestyle changes are more likely to stick when you work on them as a family,” Dr. Farrell says. “So teach healthy habits by example. Then watch your own health improve, too.”

Related Links

Your child's health is important.Don't delay care. Schedule an in-person, video or telephone visit today with a UH Rainbow pediatric endocrinologist.

 

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