Type 2 Diabetes is Occurring More Often in Children and Teens
High blood sugars that are left untreated over time can affect every major organ in the child’s body, including the eyes, heart, nervous system, and kidneys. The long-term complications of type 2 diabetes develop gradually and include blindness, cardiovascular disease, stroke, kidney disease, amputations, and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
Prevent Type 2 Diabetes for Your Child
Healthy eating, daily exercise, and keeping a healthy weight are important steps to preventing type 2 diabetes. Parents can help by providing small portions of healthy foods and exercising with their child or offering the child opportunities to be more active. Signing your child up for a sport or dance lessons can help. Your child may need support to stay on track with diet and exercise changes.
Keeping a positive attitude towards a healthy diet and exercise is important to build habits in your child that they may use to manage diabetes throughout their life. A healthy diet and exercise can benefit the other family members, and so your child will not feel alone; it is important to include the entire family in the lifestyle change.
Stop Diabetes in its Tracks.
Make a family-style plan for healthy eating and activity, starting with these tips.
Diabetes Risk Factors in Children
You can have prediabetes for years but have no clear symptoms, so it often goes undetected until serious health problems such as type 2 diabetes show up. It’s important to talk to your doctor about getting your blood sugar tested if you have any of the risk factors for prediabetes, which include:
Being physically active lowers the risk for type 2 diabetes because it helps the body use insulin better, decreasing insulin resistance.
Kids who get type 2 diabetes are usually diagnosed in their early teens. One reason is that hormones present during puberty make it harder for the body use insulin, especially for girls.
People who are overweight—especially if they have excess belly fat—are more likely to have insulin resistance, kids included. Insulin resistance is a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes.
Having a family member with type 2 diabetes.
Being born to a mom with gestational diabetes.
Having one or more conditions related to insulin resistance.
Race and ethnicity are also a factor: African Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, American Indians, Pacific Islanders, and some Asian Americans are at higher risk.
If your child is overweight and has any two of the risk factors listed above, talk to your doctor about getting his or her blood sugar tested. Testing typically begins at 10 years old or when puberty starts, whichever is first, and is repeated every 3 years.
Take Charge as a Family
Parents can do a lot to help their kids prevent type 2 diabetes. Set a new normal as a family—healthy changes become habits more easily when everyone does them together. Here are some tips to get started (provided by the CDC):
*Young kids and teens are still growing, so if they’re overweight the goal is to slow down weight gain while allowing normal growth and development. Don’t put them on a weight loss diet without talking to their doctor.*
- Drink more water and fewer sugary drinks.
- Eat more fruits and vegetables.
- Make favorite foods healthier.
- Get kids involved in making healthier meals.
- Eat slowly—it takes at least 20 minutes to start feeling full.
- Eat at the dinner table only, not in front of the TV or computer.
- Shop for food together.
- Shop on a full stomach so you’re not tempted to buy unhealthy food.
- Teach your kids to read food labels to understand which foods are healthiest.
- Have meals together as a family as often as you can.
- Don’t insist kids clean their plates.
- Don’t put serving dishes on the table.
- Serve small portions; let kids ask for seconds.
- Reward kids with praise instead of food.
- Aim for your child to get 60 minutes of physical activity a day, in several 10- or 15-minute sessions or all at once.
- Start slow and build up.
- Keep it positive—focus on progress.
- Take parent and kid fitness classes together.
- Make physical activity more fun; try new things.
- Ask kids what activities they like best—everyone is different.
- Encourage kids to join a sports team.
- Have a “fit kit” available—a jump rope, hand weights, resistance bands.
- Limit screen time to 2 hours a day.
- Plan active outings, like hiking or biking.
- Take walks together.
- Move more in and out of the house—vacuuming, raking leaves, gardening.
- Turn chores into games, like racing to see how fast you can clean the house.