Obese people who have type 2 diabetes in their 20s are likely to be at higher risk of a heart attack or stroke in their 40s, if they do not change their lifestyle, warn health experts.
"If your blood pressure (BP) is 136/88 and you're a man with a waist over 40 (inches) or a woman with a waist over 35 (inches), it spells trouble," said Dale J. Hamilton, diabetes clinical services chief at The Methodist Hospital in Houston.
"These are two of the five symptoms of metabolic syndrome, a problem that can lead to type 2 diabetes. All you need is three to begin seeing increased atherosclerosis."
High triglyceride levels over 150, insulin resistance and a low LDL (good cholesterol) are factors of metabolic syndrome, along with high BP and central obesity. This condition afflicts 47 million Americans, says American Heart Association.
Many of them will end up with type 2 diabetes, which can eventually lead to coronary artery disease and stroke. "Small changes every day can help curb big problems later on," said Hamilton.
"Losing five to 10 pounds will help lower blood pressure. Reducing saturated fats, carbohydrates, and eating about two-thirds the amount you eat now will help you lose weight around the middle. Walk 45 minutes a day instead of 30," added Hamilton.
Some experts believe replacing sugar with high fructose corn syrup in processed foods in the US and Canada in the 1990s has played a role in the rise of type 2 diabetes cases.
High fructose corn syrup is made by changing the sugar in corn starch to fructose, another form of sugar. It has become popular because it extends the shelf life of processed foods and is cheaper than sugar. It has also become a popular ingredient in many sodas and fruit-flavoured drinks.
"The problem with high fructose corn syrup is that it promotes central obesity," Hamilton said, according to a Methodist Hospital release.
"Another problem with it is that it fools your body into thinking you are hungry. I don't think you need to eliminate it from your diet, you just need to be aware of how much of it you are consuming on a daily basis because too much can lead to serious weight gain."
Keep in mind, he said, type 2 diabetes symptoms often go untreated because there are few or no symptoms until it is too late.