Type 2 diabetes in children ages 9 to 17 has risen dramatically over the past two decades with obesity being the main cause. Parents are the key to stopping this cycle.
Childhood obesity has risen at alarming rates over the past two decades. With increasingly sedentary lifestyles and an appetite for convenience and fast foods, obesity in children has risen dramatically. According to the National Poll on Children’s Health, obesity in children has risen by 50 percent over the past two decades with 25 percent of all children being considered obese. While being obese has its own health issues such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, orthopedic problems and sleep disorders, the occurrence of type 2 diabetes is the most prominent of these problems.
Until ten years ago type 2 diabetes was generally diagnosed in people over age 40. But today children as young as ten-years old are being diagnosed with this dangerous, and sometimes deadly, disease. Left untreated type 2 diabetes can cause blindness, kidney failure and heart disease.
What is Type 2 Diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body doesn’t produce enough insulin and cells cannot use insulin properly, a disorder called insulin resistance. Eventually the pancreas loses its ability to produce insulin altogether. Type 2 diabetes is the result of poor diet and exercise habits along with being overweight or obese over a period of years. If a child at the age of 10 is diagnosed as insulin resistant and it is ignored, serious health issues will occur in ten to fifteen years. If it continues at the rate it is now, 25 percent of young children today will be dangerously ill by the time they are in their mid-twenties.
Symptoms and Warning Signs – Childhood Obesity
Symptoms and warning signs of type 2 diabetes in children to look for are:
- Cholesterol – Have the child’s cholesterol tested. Make sure to have both the good cholesterol (LDL) and bad cholesterol (HDL), along with triglycerides tested separately. With type 2 diabetes the LDL is usually low while the HDL and triglycerides are high.
- Growth – watch the child’s growth compared to the average child’s. If the child shows a dramatic increase in weight in a short period of time this may be a warning sign.
- High blood sugar levels – Normal levels are in the 70-120 level.
- Thirst – Always thirsty or drinking a high quantity of liquids.
- Urinating – Urinating more frequently than normal.
- Weakness – Feeling weak and tired frequently.
- Skin discoloration – Skin turning darker around the neck or folds of arms or in circles around the eyes.
- Slow to heal – Watch for cuts or bug bites that haven’t healed in a normal amount of time.
- If a child shows any of these warning signs seek help from a pediatrician immediately.
Treatment – Childhood Obesity ( Overweight Children )
In most cases, type 2 diabetes can be controlled by diet, exercise and weight control. In some instances medication is used to help control blood sugar levels.
Prevention – Childhood Obesity ( Overweight Children )
Prevention of type 2 diabetes is as simple as diet and exercise. Beginning at an early age is best but even if children are older it is good to start a family plan of eating healthy foods and getting regular exercise. This may help to reduce a family’s chances of getting onset type 2 diabetes in the later years too.
What Parents Can Do – Childhood Obesity ( Overweight Children )
Children learn what they see. If parents are eating unhealthy foods and sitting in front of the television every evening, children will also. Eating healthy and exercising should be a family effort. Discuss with the children the reasons it is necessary to make better food decisions. As children begin to feel healthier or weigh less this may be motivation enough for them to choose good foods when they are not at home.
Here are some tips for eating healthier and adding exercise to the family’s lifestyle:
- Skip the burgers and pizza from fast food restaurants and plan healthy meals for the family instead. Choose lean meats, whole grain breads and fresh vegetables and fruits.
- Instead of three large meals a day, serve several small meals and nutritious snacks. This will help keep children from overeating at meals and keep their energy levels up. People who eat 5 small meals a day tend to weigh less than their 3 meal-a-day counterparts.
- Choose healthy snacks like fruit, popcorn or nuts. Skip the chips and cookies, saving them for an occasional treat.
- Broil, bake or grill meats instead of frying.
- Be aware of the amount of sodium and carbohydrates in the convenience foods that are purchased. Read labels to understand exactly what the family is eating.
- Skip sweetened sodas and drink mixes. These contain empty calories and many of the ingredients are just plain bad for a child’s growing body. Drink plenty of water along with milk and fresh fruit juice.
- Getting motivated doesn’t mean having to go to the gym or doing a rigorous exercise routine. Bike, walk or play a game of baseball in the front yard. Change it up every day. Families can have fun and exercise at the same time.
- Get exercise from everyday outings. Park further away from the mall and walk that extra distance, use stairs instead of the elevator or ride a bike on quick outings instead of driving.
Make eating and exercise changes a little at a time until the family gets used to the new foods and routines. It will be easier for everyone to accept change if it isn’t a drastic one all at once.
Teaching children good eating and exercise habits will help ward off unwanted pounds and diseases. Don’t despair when there are setbacks, this will happen. Remember that the long-term goal is a healthy, happy, family.