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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


September 8, 2001 - Issue 44


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Victims of Adult Onset Diabetes Getting Younger


 by Sharon Salyer Everett Herald Writer-August 28, 2001

While diabetes screenings are now being recommended for many people in their 30s, doctors here and across the nation say the disease is becoming epidemic among a much broader group as well: anyone who is overweight and doesn't exercise, beginning as early as adolescence.

"This is a huge health issue," said Charlein Pinkham, a certified diabetes educator at Providence Everett Medical Center.

"The youngest person I've seen is about 16 years old," Pinkham said of Type 2, previously called adult-onset, diabetes.

"We used to think it happened to those over 40. For the last few years, the age has been getting younger and younger."

The reasons: lack of exercise, poor dietary choices and sitting in front of the television or computer too much, she said.

"We're in an epidemic proportion," she said of teens and those in their 20s and 30s now being diagnosed with diabetes.

Pinkham said her formula for preventing the disease is simple: "Eat less; move more."

Patients can be tested for diabetes as part of routine blood tests performed during yearly physicals, she said, with normal blood sugars ranging between 70 and 115 milligrams/deciliter.

Dr. Jim Chamberlain, an Everett internal medicine physician, said the link between diabetes and inactivity among youngsters is so strong that it is sometimes called "Nintendo Syndrome."

"What are kids doing now?" he asked. "They're playing video games or on the computer. They're eating unhealthy food and getting obese.

"The same thing happening in adults is happening to them," he said, developing insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes.

Moderate regular exercise, such as daily 30-minute walks, and reducing dietary fat cut the risk of getting diabetes in half, even among those at highest risk for the disease, such as minorities and those with a family history of diabetes, Chamberlain noted.

Screenings are recommended for youngsters 11 and up at high-risk for the disease, such as those with a family history of diabetes and who are overweight, have high blood pressure or are ethnic minorities, said Dr. Francine Kaufman, president-elect of the American Diabetes Association and a Los Angeles-based pediatric endocrinologist.

The latest call for increased screenings involves high-risk adults between the ages of 30 and 39, said Dr. Claresa Levetan, a Washington, D.C., physician who helped write new recommendations from the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists.

Diabetes increased 76 percent in this age group between 1990 and 1998, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Those especially at-risk: Hispanics, African Americans, American Indians and Asians, particularly Pacific Islanders.

"Diets have changed," she said of one cause for diabetes' rising trend. While food is now higher in fat, less physical activity is required in daily living to burn it off, triggering the disease.

The goal of the new guidelines is to diagnose patients earlier, Levetan said, noting that diabetes can often can go undiagnosed for seven to 10 years.

Some $100 billion is spent in the U.S. every year on diabetes treatment, she said, with $80 billion spent on treating its complications, which include heart attack, stroke, amputation, kidney failure and vision problems including blindness.

"There are six million American who have diabetes who don't think they have the disease," Levetan said.

With proper treatment, "the complications of diabetes can be prevented or delayed," she added.

Two types

  • Type 2: Accounts for 90 to 95 percent of all diabetes. A disorder resulting from the body's inability to make enough, or properly use, insulin, which is needed to convert food into energy. Age, obesity and sedentary lifestyles are major factors for the disease.
  • Type 1: Accounts for 5 to 10 percent of diabetes cases. The body does not produce any insulin. Most often occurs in children and young adults. People with Type 1 must take daily insulin injections.

More information: For information on support groups and diabetes, call the American Diabetes Association or check the website at \:

Sources: American Diabetes Association

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  Canku Ota is a free Newsletter celebrating Native America, its traditions and accomplishments . We do not provide subscriber or visitor names to anyone. Some articles presented in Canku Ota may contain copyright material. We have received appropriate permissions for republishing any articles. Material appearing here is distributed without profit or monetary gain to those who have expressed an interest. This is in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107.  

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