There’s no question about it—diabetes is on the rise. Across the board, more and more people are suffering from prediabetes, diabetes and complications from high blood sugar levels. Most concerning is how prevalent these conditions have become among younger people, who should be at the peak of good health.
A staggering one in four young adults is on the road toward developing diabetes. Obesity is a major contributor, but race, family background and lifestyle factors also play their parts. If trends continue, incredible numbers of prediabetic young adults will eventually develop diabetes, which can increase their cardiovascular risks and cause a number of other potential complications.
A study recently published in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) revealed a startling trend among US youth. Researchers surveyed 2606 adolescents and 3180 young adults between 2005 and 2016, and they found that about 25% of young adults are in pre-diabetic states. Nearly as bad, about 20% of adolescents are in the same boat. That’s a lot of people who should be in the prime of their lives but who are instead suffering the effects of insulin resistance and elevated blood sugar levels and the result, as they age, could be deadly.
Obesity is the highest risk factor when it comes to insulin resistance and the development of diabetes. Being male also significantly raises a person’s risks. Race, family history and lifestyle can also contribute. Age is another factor — but the risks have gone up for all age groups, with the most recent estimates at just over 33% of the adult population being prediabetic.
Left to progress, prediabetes can become full-blown diabetes, which can create a whole new host of health issues. Unhealthy young people are likely to grow into unhealthy adults taxing the American healthcare system with mostly preventable complications.
Insulin resistance increases cholesterol and blood pressure levels, raising heart disease risks. Over time, uncontrolled blood sugar can lead to kidney disease, vision problems, nerve damage, poor circulation and even dementia. Dangerously high blood sugar can affect consciousness, pulse and ultimately even lead to a diabetic coma. With their whole lives ahead of them, young adults in this position may be starting out with dangerous complications holding them back before they've even begun to live.
With one in four young adults skating the razor’s edge with their physical health, we need to do more to ensure these young people have the resources and information they need. At the prediabetes stage, chronic illness and serious complications are still avoidable, and the condition is potentially reversible. Maybe we might take reversal a step further and seek better ways to prevent this from being such a problem in the first place?
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