Type 2 Diabetes – Not Just for Adults
Being overweight is a significant contributor to developing type 2 diabetes. And according to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately one-third of American youth are overweight. Families can work together to take charge of health and avoid getting type 2 diabetes. When everyone is focused on a healthier lifestyle, it’s easier and creates a new normal.
Insulin Resistance and Children
When an adult or child is overweight from eating too much without a lot of activity, the pancreas has to make more insulin to get cells to use blood sugar for energy. Over time, the pancreas can’t keep up the need for additional insulin and blood sugar levels rise, creating a risk for type 2 diabetes. Physical activity is important because it helps the body better use insulin and reduce the opportunity for insulin resistance.
Risk Factors for Type 2 Diabetes in Children
If your child is at least 10 years old or has started puberty, overweight and has any two of the following risk factors, talk with your doctor about getting a blood sugar test and depending on results, follow your doctor’s recommendations for any follow up tests:
- Family member with type 2 diabetes
- Mother had gestational diabetes while pregnant
- One or more conditions associated with insulin resistance – high blood pressure, high cholesterol or polycystic ovary syndrome
- African American, Hispanic, Native American, Alaska Native, Asian American, Pacific Islander
Six Ways to Increase Activity
Increasing activity in the day is a change of habit. If your child is used to spending free time as screen time, you may need to help your child discover other activities that he or she will enjoy. Physical fitness isn’t just a short-term exercise, it’s a lifestyle that pays off with better health. Here are six ideas to get started:
- Start slowly and build up, with a goal of at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day. Exercise doesn’t have to happen all at once; 10-15 minute sessions count.
- Encourage your child to join a sports team.
- Take fitness classes together, or create active outings such as bike riding, walking the dog or hiking.
- Consider taking care of the house as a two-for-one by pitching in for chores. Vacuum, rake leaves, have a weed-pulling contest, sweep the porch or driveway.
- Give holiday gifts that keep you moving and away from screens – ping pong, jump rope, sidewalk chalk or corn hole can be fun activities.
- Limit screen time to 2 hours a day.
Ten Healthy Eating Habits
Like exercise, healthy eating habits don’t happen all at once. Give yourself a break and get started in the right direction. Success will encourage more success.
- Eat more fruits and vegetables and less processed food and sugar.
- Drink fewer sodas and sugary drinks and drink more water instead.
- Plan and/or shop for meal prep together. Teach your kids to understand food labels.
- Make healthy meals ahead of time and freeze for nights that you know will be time-crunched.
- Serve smaller portion sizes.
- Eat dinner together as a family, not in front of the TV or computer.
- Slow down the pace of eating so that kids have time to feel full (about 20 minutes).
- Don’t make food a reward. Consider nonfood-centered ways to celebrate.
- Take a class on nutrition or healthy meal planning from a diabetes educator.
- Set a good example for them by making healthy choices yourself.