Every day in the US, 40 children are diagnosed with diabetes…that is approximately 15,000 children every year. The numbers are on the increase – why?

First, it is important to understand what diabetes is, and why it has such dramatic implications for the health of the individual diagnosed with this problem.

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic illness and if you have diabetes, it means that there is a problem with your insulin – either your body is not producing enough, the insulin you do make isn’t working, or a combination of both.

Insulin helps regulate blood sugar levels. It is produced in the pancreas.

Diabetes is classified into 2 broad types – Type 1 – this occurs when your immune system destroys the insulin-producing cells the pancreas. It can begin at any age but most often it occurs in children and teenagers.

Type 2 diabetes – this used to be called “adult-onset” diabetes but increasingly it is being diagnosed in children and adolescents. Risk factors are obesity, family history, and certain ethnic groups are genetically more susceptible to this disease.

Signs of diabetes in children can be harder to detect than in adults – look for increased thirst, excess urination, irritability, constant hunger, weight loss, lethargy and blurred vision.

If a child with undiagnosed diabetes is untreated, it can lead to a life-threatening condition known as DKA (diabetic ketoacidosis) – the child becomes very unwell, can start vomiting and can lose consciousness.

Type 2 diabetes is particularly on the increase in children., especially those 10 years and older.

This can be directly linked to the increase in childhood obesity.

When children are overweight and inactive, they gain weight and their body produces too much insulin – eventually this leads to diabetes.

It is estimated that in the US, between 16 and 33 % of children are over weight.

A child is considered to be obese when they are 10% over the recommended body weight for their age and height.

Everyone with a diagnosis of diabetes is at risk of other health problems somewhere down the track – eye problems, circulation problems, kidney disease, nerve issues….

If your child already has diabetes, the best way to ensure a healthy future is to keep blood sugar levels under strict control.

Education of the family is the most important determining factor in the outcome of your child’s diabetes and therefore, ultimate long-term wellness.

Go to your doctor regularly, and keep the appointments with the other health care professionals who look after your child and ask questions.

And finally, how do you prevent diabetes in your child?

Encourage your child to exercise daily. – this includes everything from organized sport to walking the dog, taking the stairs instead of the elevator and thinking twice before you get in the car.

Eat whole foods – avoid sugary processed foods and take away fried foods.

Keep your child’s weight under control. Remember not to serve too large portions at mealtimes.

Sometimes it helps to include your child’s friends at mealtimes so that they can encourage each other to eat fun, healthy food. A favourite game I play with my kids is “crunch” – each child takes a turn to eat a certain member of the vegetable family & see if the others can close their eyes & guess what they are eating….it’s amazing how quickly competitiveness overtakes & the celery/tomatoes/carrots/avocado etc disappear off the plates!

Keep your child’s weight under control. Remember not to serve too large portions at mealtimes.

In an age when we have access to the best health care and wellness resources ever, diabetes is one health problem that we can work to prevent in our children.

Links about diabetes:

www.ndep.nih.gov

How to calculate body fatness in children:

www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/bmi/index.html

Author's Bio: 

Intent.com
Intent.com is a premier wellness site and supportive social network where like-minded individuals can connect and support each others' intentions. Founded by Deepak Chopra's daughter Mallika Chopra, Intent.com aims to be the most trusted and comprehensive wellness destination featuring a supportive community of members, blogs from top wellness experts and curated online content relating to Personal, Social, Global and Spiritual wellness.