The June issues of Pediatrics carries an article laying down the risks for teens developing heart problems, cardio-vascular disease and diabetes.

The study compares today’s figures with a study from a year ago called “Prevalence of Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors Among U.S. Adolescents, 1999-2008.”

Just looking at diabetes, we find that figures have jumped from 9% a decade ago, to a dreadful 23% today. That’s nearly a quarter of all teens at risk of needing daily insulin injections to control their blood sugar levels, or risk coma and death – never mind the expense and loss of productivity, just the burden that his huge expanse of population stands to put on healthcare providers, could bring the system to a grinding halt, with a 64% increase in diabetics in the next decade.

USA Today quotes pediatric endocrinologist Larry Deeb, former president of medicine and science for the American Diabetes Association as saying:

“To get ahead of this problem, we have to be incredibly aggressive and look at children and adolescents and say you have to make time for physical activity … because stress on the pancreas and insulin resistance catches up with people. We are truly in deep trouble. Diabetes threatens to destroy the health care system.”

With around one third of all adolescents either over-weight or obese, risk factors for heart disease, another long term health problem that puts a tremendous burden on healthcare providers, look just as bad. Half of overweight and nearly two thirds of obese teens are already showing risk factors for heart disease, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes risks; by way of comparison, researchers cite figures showing around one third of regular teens show minor risks, of heart problems.

In a recent study, researchers also looked at 1,605 preschool children and identified social stressors, such as maternal depressive symptoms, maternal substance use, intimate partner violence, housing insecurity, food insecurity and paternal incarceration, as putting girls as young as 5 at increased risk of becoming obese. Boys didn’t seem to have the same issues, which perhaps relates to females holding more emotional attachment to family life.

Overall US adolescents aged 12 to 19 years showed a prevalence of

  • 14% for prehypertension/hypertension
  • 22% for borderline-high/high low-density lipoprotein cholesterol
  • 6% for low high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (

Researchers note that the tests for diabetes markers were done with the fasting glucose test, that has disadvantages. The AC1 test is considered more accurate, looking at average blood sugar levels over three months, but with one third of adolescents already overweight, there is little argument about the urgency for changes in lifestyle and education amongst the younger generations.

Written by Rupert Shepherd