Nearly 45% Of Younger Americans Have This Silent Health Risk

One in 10 American adults has diabetes mellitus. In some ways, we’re taking better care of treatment for the chronic condition, but in other ways, we’re in need of major improvements.

According to a report released Tuesday morning by the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, 90 percent of adults with diagnosed diabetes had seen a doctor for their health within the previous six months. Good sign.

On the flip side, numbers indicates that this better care of diabetes symptoms correlates with increasing age: The youngest group of patients (ages 18-39) had not paid nearly enough as much attention to blood pressure and cholesterol levels as the older group; only 89.9 percent had taken a blood pressure reading in the previous year, and just 71.9 percent had gotten cholesterol stats.

Gerald Bernstein, MD, FACP, director of the Diabetes Management Program at Mount Sinai Beth Israel, says that this is an area in which we need to do better, as monitoring blood pressure and cholesterol can help minimize risk of heart attack, stroke and other diseases — especially among the youngest group of diabetes sufferers, who have more years of risk ahead of them.

Bernstein also says that the CDC report is “just the tip of the iceberg,” not accounting for the millions of Americans who are currently living with prediabetes. Left untreated, in a decade or less, it’s likely to turn into diabetes.

Here’s what you need to know about this unsung condition.

You’re born with risk, which increases with age.

First, a little background. From the moment a person is born, they encounter a state of health risk and hazards. Specifically for diabetes, the question is, are factors going to arise that affect insulin production? Namely: obesity, increasing age, waist circumference, and so on.

The closer to clinically healthy you can remain — maintaining normal weight, normal physical activity level, normal blood pressure and cholesterol levels — the lower your risk of developing diabetes.

However, in a culture of obesity and sedentary lifestyle, trivial risk can become real risk quickly. “The first time this happens is when the body does not respond to a glucose challenge,” Bernstein tells Yahoo Health. “When your blood glucose level spikes after a meal, higher than it should, over 140 — and suddenly, you’re looking at prediabetes.”

Prediabetes is remarkably common.

Prediabetes is the gray area between normal and diabetic; it’s a reading between 140 and 199 two hours after eating (impaired glucose intolerance), or a reading between 100 and 125 if you’re taking a reading overnight (impaired fasting glucose). Anything higher is considered diabetes.

After you eat, insulin is dumped into the bloodstream by the pancreas to help the body absorb and utilize glucose from your meal. If you have prediabetes, this system starts to malfunction, and sugar builds up in the bloodstream as insulin is unable to neutralize it.

How many people straddle this fine line? “Based on CDC data, 40 to 45 percent of the country has prediabetes,” says Bernstein. “And that’s 140 to 150 million people.” Even at this stage of the game, before full-blown diabetes, you’re at higher risk of heart attack and stroke.

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Meredith Little

World News Journalist from Dublin, Ireland. Meredith has been with the Pluto Daily since October of 2013.