New Study Shows Rise in Teen Diabetes, Heart Disease Risk

By Nadia Crow, Reporter

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - A new study shows alarming statistics about the health of many U.S. teenagers. Since 2000, the rate of kids with diabetes and pre-diabetes nearly tripled from 9% to 23%. One of four kids ages 12 to 19 have two or more risk factors for heart disease.

These numbers mirror data just released about childhood obesity. It all goes hand-in-hand. Too much weight, not exercising, and eating unhealthy foods speeds up the likelihood you'll have a severe medical condition. It's the reason for multiple family-oriented wellness programs across Eastern Iowa.

Get up, get active, get fit. To many, it's easier said than done. That's why research says teen diabetes is skyrocketing. "Our bodies are designed to be active and we spend a lot of time sitting. Whether it's at school or at work or at home we sit on the couch," said Mercy Medical Center Exercise Specialist Holly Kepros.

Kepros said it's a learned behavior that's making our society overweight and at risk for serious health conditions. "A lot times it happens with their parents and then it's passed down to their kids and it's just going to continue. We've got to break that cycle," said Kepros.

"We have opportunities to be active so we should take them." Forest Kelly, 19, works out regularly but isn't surprised people his age aren't healthy. He said it's all about convenience. "At our [college] campus, it's a buffet style so you can eat as much as you want in one meal," said Kelly.

That's why Kepros says it has to be a lifestyle change starting in the home. A 12-week course through Mercy Medical Center called "Fit Families" teaches nutrition and exercises. Last year, KCRG featured the Stevens Family who used the program to lose weight and cut down their overall health risks. Tackling the problem head on gives the kids and teens a better adult-life.

"It's not a good quality of life and cost just the medical expenses of living to take care of those diseases," said Kepros.

Some programs come with gym memberships, others teach nutrition, "Fit Families" teaches at-home workouts. Kepros recommends them all along as people have realistic goals.

Kelly says it's the little things he does to keep his weight down. "I try to drink water over pop," said Forest.

While most people think of type two diabetes and early signs of heart disease as common among overweight or obese people, that's not always true. The study shows one in three teens with healthy weights still had at least one risk factor for heart disease.
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