Pre-Diabetes in Teens

By Beth Greenwood
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Pre-diabetes among teenagers, a condition that indicates the risk of developing diabetes is high, rose from 9 percent in 1999 to 23 percent in 2007-2008, according to a May 2012 article in “Pediatrics.” The authors of the report note that they did not expect the rise in pre-diabetes because teen obesity rates have been leveling off. From 1999 to 2000, 18 percent of teens were obese, while in 2007 to 2008, 20 percent of teens were obese. Some of the rise in pre-diabetes might have been in Type 2 diabetes, however, as the two conditions were grouped together in the study.

Pre-Diabetes and Diabetes

Pre-diabetes, as the name implies, is a condition that exists prior to a patient developing full-blown diabetes, and includes a rise in blood sugar levels. Pre-diabetes can also include metabolic syndrome, according to staff writers at the KidsHealth.org website. Metabolic syndrome includes at least three of four conditions: excessive belly fat, high blood pressure, abnormal levels of blood fats such as cholesterol, and triglycerides and hyperglycemia or high blood sugar. Type 2 diabetes, a disease more closely associated with middle-aged and older adults, is a metabolic condition in which either the body produces less insulin or the body’s cells are less responsive to the insulin produced. Diabetes also raises the risk of high cholesterol, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.

Metabolic Syndrome

Obesity increases the risk of metabolic syndrome, according to KidsHealth -- as many as one in 10 teens might have metabolic syndrome and over a third of obese teens might have this condition. The problem actually begins much younger, and KidsHealth reports that in one study of second- and third-graders, 5 percent had metabolic syndrome. Obesity is not just being overweight; an obese teen is 20 percent or more over the ideal body weight for age and height. Normal blood pressure in teens varies by age and height, according to the National Institutes of Health, but generally ranges from about 104/64 to 114/70 for boys and 104/65 to 108/68 for girls. A normal total cholesterol level for children and teens is less than 170 milligrams and triglycerides should be less than 150 milligrams, while a high blood sugar is over 240 milligrams/deciliter, according to Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh.

Risk

Although diabetes itself has a number of easily recognizable symptoms such as frequent thirst and urination, extreme fatigue and frequent infections, teens who have pre-diabetes might not have any symptoms. Teens with a family history of diabetes or who belong to certain ethnic or minority groups such as African Americans, Mexican Americans, American Indians, Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders and Asian Americans are more likely to develop pre-diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. Blood tests can determine whether a teen’s blood sugar is high enough to qualify for pre-diabetes.

Preventing Diabetes

A teen will not develop diabetes just because she has pre-diabetes. Weight loss and exercise can help reverse the problems that lead to a higher than normal blood sugar, according to the American Diabetes Association. Teens who lose 7 percent of their body weight and who exercise moderately for 30 minutes a day five days a week -- such as brisk walking, as an example of moderate exercise -- can reduce the risk of developing pre-diabetes. If you are concerned about your teen’s weight or think she may have pre-diabetes, contact your family physician or pediatrician.

About the Author

Beth Greenwood is an RN and has been a writer since 2010. She specializes in medical and health topics, as well as career articles about health care professions. Greenwood holds an Associate of Science in nursing from Shasta College.