Prediabetes is on the Rise - Why This is Happening and What Can be Done

According to recent data published in JAMA Pediatrics, a new study reveals that the incidence of prediabetes has more than doubled since the year 1999. The new figures detail that 28% of individuals between the ages of 12 and 19 now meet the official criteria used to define prediabetes.

This number is a dramatic increase from the 12% reported in 1999 and the 23% figure from 2007. The researchers examined data from 6,600 adolescents in this age group. By conducting the survey every two years, researchers are able to compare data points in a timely manner to spot trends.

Here is what you need to know about the cause for alarm and what can be done to combat this significant problem in today's youth.

Understanding Prediabetes

Prediabetes is defined when an individual's glucose levels rise higher than the recommended reading, however, they are not high enough to fall under the umbrella of diabetes. Individuals identified as having prediabetes are more likely to go on to develop confirmed type 2 diabetes as well as heart disease.

During the phase of prediabetes, it is still possible to implement the necessary lifestyle changes to prevent a diabetes diagnosis further down the road. Prediabetes is most likely to strike boys between the ages of 12 and 18. It is also more common in Hispanic and Black populations when compared to non-Hispanic white demographics. It is estimated that approximately 100 million adults have prediabetes in the U.S., pointing to the expansive proliferation of this condition.

Risk Factors for Prediabetes

In addition to the demographic correlations associated with a greater risk of prediabetes, there are also a number of factors that boost the odds that you will experience this diagnosis. Some of the most common risk factors for prediabetes are being overweight or obese or experiencing a sudden weight gain. Leading a sedentary lifestyle that does encourage regular physical activity also raises the risk of developing this condition.

You are also more likely to be flagged with prediabetes if you have family members that have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Lastly, having a mother that developed gestational diabetes when pregnant increases your own individual risk.

Symptoms of Prediabetes

The most challenging aspect of diagnosing prediabetes is that it typically does not present with overt symptoms that can be easily spotted. However, one potential sign of the condition is darkened skin that appears around the neck, groin, or armpits.

Fortunately, it is easier to tell if you have transitioned from the prediabetes stage to type 2 diabetes. These signs and symptoms include the need to urinate more frequently, increased hunger and thirst, unexplained fatigue, blurred vision, frequent infections, sores and wounds that are slow to heal, unintended weight loss, and a feeling of numbness or tingling in the feet or the hands.

It is imperative that you reach out to a healthcare professional if you notice a combination of these symptoms and signs.

What Can be Done to Combat the Issue of Prediabetes

It is primarily up to parents to help to prevent the onset of prediabetes and the subsequent type 2 diabetes in children and adolescents. While you cannot control the genetic risk factors, there are a number of lifestyle modifications that families can make to cut this risk.

The first step is ensuring that children and teens have access to a wide variety of healthy foods while limiting their consumption of processed products and excess sugar. Cooking and eating meals together can go a long way in supporting the nutritional goals of your family. Families should also encourage sufficient water intake.

It is also good practice to make regular physical activity a part of your family's daily routines. Making exercise a family activity will make it more likely that it happens on a regular basis. Limiting screen time will naturally encourage more physical activity.

The crisis of more and more adolescents being identified as having prediabetes will not change until adults pave the way with better guidance. Without the proper intervention at an early age, today's youth are being set up for diabetes in record number going forward.

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