Few people associate Type 2 Diabetes with young people – I know I never did. Yet this past year, my 13-year-old cousin became one of a growing number of people under 20 to be diagnosed with this illness. I always knew of Type 2 as a form of Diabetes that was developed by adults, however, it seems that this disease is now affecting many families with young children.
According to Dr Daphne Gardner, a registrar at the endocrinology department at Singapore General Hospital, Type 2 diabetes in childhood or adolescence used to be uncommon in the past. But now, it accounts for at least a third of childhood diabetes. Today, a child above the age of 12 who gets diagnosed with diabetes has almost as much chance of having Type 2 diabetes as Type 1 diabetes. Some warning signs of diabetes include increased thirst, frequent or night-time urination, blurred vision, unusual fatigue, and dark skin around the neck or armpit.
While both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes have a genetic component, studies have found that a sedentary lifestyle with poor eating habits and excessive weight gain are very strong contributing factors in the latter. What was even scarier to me was what Type 2 can lead to later in my cousin’s life; according to information from St. Joseph’s Cardiac Center in Syracuse, NY, if left untreated, Diabetes can lead to blindness, heart disease, and even neurological problems. With such serious repercussions, I decided to work with my cousin and the rest of my family to get everyone on the right track to healthier lives.
With the New Year upon us, it’s a great time for families everywhere to make resolutions to make this a healthier year, and a year to prevent Type 2 Diabetes in their families.
Diet: Making healthy food choices
To help kids maintain a healthy weight it’s important to serve as a mentor and guide to children when it comes to making better food choices. Snacks rich in healthy monounsaturated fats such as walnuts, almonds or natural nut butters are better than those full of processed sugars and trans fats.
Parents can help kids make healthy choices at mealtimes by offering plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Even picky eaters will have fun eating meals they helped prepare, so do an online search to find some fun recipes that they can help you fix.
Here are a few examples of my cousins’ favorite new meals:
- Spinach quiche for breakfast
- Spicy tuna salad on a pita for lunch
- Moroccan Tagine served over brown rice
- Frozen yogurt with fruit and nut toppings for dessert
Regular Physical Activity
Sedentary kids are at higher risk for Type 2 Diabetes than those who get plenty of exercises. Help your kids get moving by joining them for fun family activities like bike riding or hiking. If you live in a cold climate, winter sports are a great way to get exercise at the beginning of the new year; spend an afternoon sledging or building snow sculptures with your kids on a snow day.
If the weather outside is entirely frightful, get your groove on indoors by turning up your favourite jams and having a family dance contest. Swimming may seem like a summer sport, but you and the kids can enjoy water sports year-round at the local YMCA or community centre.
Type 2 Diabetes is a serious illness that can be prevented. Keeping kids active and helping them eat healthy diets will go far toward ensuring a healthy future for your family.
For more information on childhood diabetes, go to Childhood Diabetes.
Written by Carolyn Fallon, edited by Michelle Ang.
A 20-something year old with a passion for life, fitness and overall well-being, Carolyn is also an avid cyclist, golfer and has been known to bust some serious moves on the dance floor. Check out her blog at fullonfit.blogspot.com.
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