With the increasing prevalence of obesity and a mostly sedentary lifestyle, it is more and more common for children to be susceptible to diabetes .
Diabetes is a condition that affects how the body uses glucose or sugar, a major source of energy. The hormone insulin helps the body use glucose to fuel the body. With diabetes, the body either can’t produce insulin or the insulin doesn’t work in the body like it should, resulting in unnaturally high glucose levels in the blood. Excess glucose in the blood for long periods of time can cause serious health problems. It damages the vessels that supply blood to vital organs, which increases the risk of heart disease and stroke, kidney disease, and vision problems.
There are multiple forms of diabetes, but the two most common ones are type 1 and type 2. In type 1 diabetes, the insulin-making cells in the pancreas are destroyed and they are unable to produce enough of the hormone. Type 1 diabetes is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors and is not a result of being overweight or obese. Whereas, in type 2 diabetes, the body develops a resistance to the hormone insulin. The tendency to develop this form of diabetes is inherited, but it also depends on environmental and lifestyle factors.
Both forms can develop at any age, but as rates of childhood obesity climb, type 2 diabetes has increasingly been diagnosed in children and adolescents . Formerly known as adult-onset diabetes, symptoms of type 2 diabetes include heavy breathing, increased thirst and urination, sudden vision changes and weight loss, and increased appetite.
Even though type 2 diabetes is partly genetic, it can be prevented or delayed in most cases by taking several simple steps towards a more healthy and balanced lifestyle. Here are three ways you can lower the risk of type 2 diabetes in children.
1. Balanced Diet: A healthy and balanced diet is important for children in their growing years. Moreover, dietary habits established in childhood are more likely to continue as an adult, helping prevent present and future health risks.
Encourage children to make healthy food choices with plenty of vitamins, fiber, and lean proteins. Additionally, adopting healthy eating habits as a family encourages children to follow through.
2. Healthy Body Weight:Being overweight is a primary risk factor for type 2 diabetes . Obesity affects the body’s ability to use insulin, therefore increasing glucose levels in the blood. Apart from diabetes, children who are overweight are also prone to other chronic diseases like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and asthma.
Limit unhealthy and processed junk food in the household. Encourage mindful healthy snacking, when needed, and practice portion control during meals.
3. Physical Activity: Besides a healthy diet, regular physical activity is vital in lowering the risk of type 2 diabetes as it helps the body use insulin better. Staying active also helps in maintaining a healthy body weight, and boosts metabolism.
Encourage your child to participate in fun outdoor activities such as tennis, swimming, and cricket. Reduce sedentary time by limiting their access to screens. Make these activities exciting by involving other family members. Gardening and dancing are also great physical activities to bond over.
4. Don’t Overindulge In ‘Healthy Food’: A child’s growth and development depend on the wide variety of nutrients he or she consumes. Strict diets aimed at managing diabetes can go both ways. While it is important to regulate eating habits and practice portion control, too much of certain nutrients can be harmful to the child. Excess of vitamin A, for instance, is said to cause brittle nails, hair loss, fever, headaches, and weight loss . Whereas too much protein can lead to dehydration, loss of calcium, and kidney dysfunction. Therefore, it is important to keep in mind that more is not always better.