Parents often casually remark that today's children grow up too quickly. In one particularly alarming sense, that sentiment is true.

A generation of children whose health has been threatened by sedentary behavior and poor eating habits now face some of the deadly health risks once limited to adults, such as type 2 diabetes.

Without serious lifestyle changes, these children could struggle with significant, lifelong health challenges, including heart disease, hypertension, high blood pressure and kidney disease.

Earlier this month, scientists released the staggering findings of a study on the "heart health" among American kids: the arteries of obese children are in the same condition of those of 45-year-old adults.

In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends cholesterol screening for children with a family history of heart disease as early as age two. Trust for America, a leading health organization, reports that 32 percent of American children are overweight or obese.

In Texas, the prevalence of obesity has surged 112 percent since 1990, according to the United Health Foundation. Prevention must be the cornerstone of our state's efforts to combat diabetes. Many people who are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes have a parent or a sibling with the disease.

But there are more than one million diagnosed cases of diabetes in Texas and, alarmingly, another half a million Texans are living with the disease and don't know it. According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study, the number of Texans affected by the disease nearly doubled between 1994 and 2002. So, as we advocate prevention, we must also pursue a cure.

For more information on diabetes, contact the American Diabetes Association at 1-800-DIABETES or visit its Web site at www.diabetes.org.

Kay Bailey Hutchison is a U.S. Senator for the state of Texas. Readers may contact her via telephone at (210) 340-2885.