40% of young adults have cardiovascular risk factors, UAB researchers find

Nearly 40 percent of U.S. adults aged 18-44 without diabetes have insulin resistance and cardiovascular risk factors, according to a recent study led by researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. 

The study, published Sept. 2 in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, drew on data from a national survey of more than 6,000 young American adults. Researchers found 40 percent of adults had insulin resistance. Those with insulin resistance have a higher prevalence of cardiovascular risk factors such as obesity, high blood pressure, poor physical activity and high cholesterol. 

"We traditionally think of young adults as being in good health, but our findings show that this is not necessarily true," said Vibhu Parcha, MD, lead study author and clinical research fellow at UAB's division of cardiovascular disease. 

"Our research suggests that, unless adequate intervention is provided, young adults are at risk of developing diabetes and potentially experiencing cardiovascular events. If we shift our efforts to tracking down individuals with insulin resistance, we can catch these cardiovascular risk factors and intervene earlier."

Typically, only those who are obese are screened for insulin resistance. However, 50 percent of study participants with the condition were not obese. 

"This means that we will be missing out on providing highly effective, preventive and therapeutic strategies to young adults who could be at risk of fatal cardiovascular events later in life," said Pankaj Arora, MD, senior study author and physician-scientist at UAB's division of cardiovascular disease. 

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