Along with an earlier onset of this condition, comes a much higher risk for developing diabetes-related complications (heart disease, kidney disease, neuropathies, blindness, infections, and Alzheimer’s) that can significantly shorten life expectancy. Parental awareness of the risk factors, symptoms and lifestyle modifications to help prevent diabetes can help shift the tide of this disturbing forecast. Here’s what parents need to know:
Know the risk factors for pediatric Type 2 diabetes
Kids who are overweight—especially in the belly area—are more likely to have insulin resistance, which is a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes. Insulin resistance doesn’t usually have symptoms, although some develop patches of thickened, dark skin called acanthosis nigricans, typically in skin folds at the back of the neck or armpits.
Other risk factors include:
- Having a family member with diabetes
- Being born to a mom who had gestational diabetes
- Being of minority descent-- including African-Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders — ups the risk.
- Having other conditions such as: High blood pressure; High cholesterol; or Polycystic ovary syndrome
Pediatricians recommend overweight children with at least two risk factors be tested every two years beginning at age 10, since many children develop type 2 diabetes at the start of puberty.
Know the Signs and Symptoms
About 40% of children who have type 2 diabetes have no signs or symptoms and are diagnosed during routine physical exams.
Other children may experience:
- Increased thirst and frequent urination- Excess sugar building up in your child's bloodstream pulls fluid from tissues causing excess thirst and urination.
- Fatigue- Lack of sugar entering the body cells might make your child tired and lethargic.
- Blurred vision- elevated blood sugars results in fluid being pulled from the lenses of the eyes, making it difficult to focus clearly.
- Slow-healing wounds or frequent infections- High blood sugar affects the body’s ability to heal and resist infections.
Focus on Prevention
If your child has or is at risk for developing Type 2 diabetes there are some key lifestyle factors that can help prevent, manage or even remediate the condition.
The focus should be on overall healthy eating patterns. Evidence supports avoiding processed foods, refined flours and grains, processed meats, and sugar sweetened drinks-- and promoting the intake of fiber-rich foods, vegetables, high-quality whole grains and yogurt. Dietary advice should be individually tailored and take into account individual, cultural, and social factors.
Weight management is a cornerstone of metabolic health and is best achieved through following health eating patterns, getting the recommended amount of daily physical activity and sleep. While weight loss is linked to improvements in blood sugars, blood pressure, and lipids and hence can delay or prevent complications or cardiovascular events—weight loss in children should be monitored by a health professional.
Physical activity is not only a key factor for weight management, but it increases the usage of glucose as energy and makes the body cells more responsive to insulin. Children and teens need a minimum of 60 minutes of physical activity daily.
To help make healthy lifestyle habits stick, it is best to make it a family affair. The same lifestyle choices that can help prevent or manage type 2 diabetes in children are also the best choices for the whole family.
These materials are provided to you by Blythedale Children’s Hospital and Kohl’s
Eat Well, Be Well Nutrition Outreach Program.
For more tips and information, please visit www.blythedale.org/kohls.
Blythedale Children's Hospital, through the generosity of Kohl’s Department Stores, is proud to offer Blythedale and Kohl's Eat Well, Be Well, an innovative outreach program designed to bring health and nutrition education to schools throughout Westchester and Putnam counties. Through this program, Blythedale staff members teach healthy eating habits to children by providing curricula, training and educational tools to school districts throughout the area. The program provides general nutrition guidelines to students, parents and school faculty. Blythedale Children's Hospital offers experts in nutrition and health-education to speak with local parenting groups, PTAs and school personnel.
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