You’ve probably heard that if you have diabetes, your kids are also at risk for developing it. It's true.
Diabetes is one of the most common chronic diseases in children and adolescents; about 151,000 people below the age of 20 have diabetes. This number is probably an underestimate of the actual number of cases, since diabetes is more difficult to diagnose in children than in adults.
When diabetes strikes during childhood, it is routinely assumed to be type 1, or juvenile-onset diabetes. However, in the last 2 decades, type 2 diabetes (formerly known as adult-onset diabetes) has been reported among U.S. children and adolescents with increasing frequency.
The most worrisome trend: diabetes in our children
As is the case in adults, type 2 diabetes in kids is typically driven by lifestyle factors leading to increased body weight. Examples of these factors include maternal gestational diabetes (mothers who have diabetes while pregnant), physical inactivity, and poor eating habits.
It is not surprising then, that with the trend of increasing overweight and obesity in children, there has also been an increase in the number of kids with diabetes.
The key to preventing diabetes is reducing the risks associated with it. Since excess weight is one of the principle causes of type 2 diabetes preventing overweight and obesity is an important focus. Children need to learn to be active and eat well at a young age, so that they will continue these healthy habits throughout adolescence and into adulthood.
A recent study by the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) showed that doing 30 minutes of exercise a day and losing 5 to 7% of your body weight is enough to lower the risk of diabetes. Since there are different strategies for weight loss for children depending on what age they are, parents should consult a health professional for guidance if their child is overweight.
Below are some general guidelines anyone can follow to improve the overall health of their family:
- Serve fresh fruits and vegetables with every meal. Allow children to chose between a number of healthy options.
- Establish an enjoyable exercise routine that includes the entire family. Provide regular opportunities for kids to be involved in a variety of activities.
- Decrease the amount sweets available in your home, and limit them to special occasions.
- Be sure everyone has breakfast before leaving home in the morning. Provide healthy snacks, such as fruit and yogurt, for them to eat between meals.
You can probably come up with other ideas for improving the health of yourself and your family in order to prevent diabetes. It really is worth the effort.
*Dietitian with the MyDiet™ Team
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