Type 2 diabetes was once the disease of middle-aged and older adults but is now being seen in our youth on a frightening level. Children and teens are not getting enough exercise and are eating too much fast food and junk food. The effects are beginning to show a shocking and unnecessary rise in type 2 diabetes amongst them. The rise in type 2 diabetes amongst our youth is now at epidemic proportions, along with the usually accompanying obesity factor.
Until recently, if a child had diabetes, it was of the Type 1 variety. This is an autoimmune disease in which the pancreas stops making insulin. Insulin is the key that allows sugar (blood glucose) to enter body cells. In type 2 diabetes, the pancreas continues to make insulin, but the body cannot use this insulin properly or cannot make enough of it.
The Major Factor: Obesity
Obesity is the major factor in the development of almost all the cases of Type 2 diabetes. The percentage of new cases found in children is now up to 45 percent and is especially high amongst the American Indians, the Hispanics, and the African-American populations.
How to know if you should have your child tested? If your child is over-weight and has any two of the following risk factors, you should have him or her tested immediately.
- Family history of type 2 diabetes in first and second-degree relatives.
- Ethnic heritage of one or more of the following:
- American Indian
- Asian/South Pacific Islander
- Signs of insulin resistance or conditions associated with insulin resistance. Some of the warning signs would be dark skin patches, elevated blood pressure and/or cholesterol levels or polycystic ovarian syndrome.
If you have type 2 diabetes in your family, you can take action to delay or totally prevent the onset. The two key components vital to doing so are exercise and healthy eating habits.
Incorporating exercise and healthy eating into your lifestyle:
- Being active is vital. Less sitting, more movement! Try to limit TV time and computer time if it isn't necessary.
- Involve the whole family in better eating and exercise habits. With exercise, this can be a fun way to enjoy your family and do things together. Some of the activities you can all do together cold be waking, bike riding, dancing, bowling, basketball, gardening or even help out in a community clean-up program! You'll be instilling important values in your children as well as helping their physical well being. Oh, what a feeling!
- Check into your school's physical education program and find out if your child is participating. You could also ask if your child could use the pool or track after school hours not only by your child, but by you as well. Some schools are more than happy to allow this. And they should be - you pay for it!
- Get the entire family involved in healthy eating. Keep only healthy foods in the home. Set a good example by choosing whole grain breads and cereals, fruits and vegetables and low-fat protein rich foods.
- Be sure to make snacking habits a separate treat from other activities. In other words, if you take your children bowling, don't encourage chips and sugary sodas be consumed while bowling. This will only serve to associate the activity with a snack that could turn into a bad, life-long habit.
- Always make it a point to eat at a kitchen or dining room table. Do not encourage eating in bed or in front of the TV, in the care or at the computer.
- You may even wish to take a healthy cooking class as a family. Learn and share this together.
- Visit our healthy recipes and learn which ones your whole family enjoys.
- Keep portions sizes down. Many of today's children can eat an entire box of macaroni and cheese. This is supposed to be the equivalent of four servings!
- Round out the smaller portions of food with two or more vegetables. This change can literally save hundreds of calories.
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