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Tips for Preventing Type 2 in Children, Teens: Think “Active” instead of “Passive”

separator Type 2 diabetes is on the rise in children. This is disturbing news, because the longer you have diabetes, the higher at risk you are of developing complications such as eye disease, heart disease, kidney disease and nerve damage that can lead to the need for amputation.

Experts believe that the rise in diabetes among young people is related to an increase in obesity. When people are obese, their bodies do not use their insulin efficiently. This is called “insulin resistance,” and eventually, it can lead to diabetes.

If you have diabetes, your child is at increased risk simply because of family history. But this doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do to influence your child’s health. Parents can play an important role in reducing the risk that their child will develop diabetes.

  • Sign up for a diabetes management course. The whole family can participate together. Talk with your doctor or other member of your healthcare team to find out where and when a course like this will be available. Not only will you learn about all kinds of ways to manage your diabetes, you’ll also meet other people in the same situation as you.
  • Make diabetes management and prevention a goal for the whole family. Be sure not to single out only the children who are overweight. They already probably feel sensitive about it. It’s more effective to talk about what kinds of foods everyone in the family should be including and avoiding, not just the ones who are overweight. After all, even the children of normal weight need to know how to eat in a healthy way.
  • Make exercise a family priority. Tell your children why it’s important to exercise. Explain to them that getting regular exercise helps their bodies use insulin more effectively. They need to start learning this kind of thing early, so that it becomes second nature to make exercise a priority.
  • If your teenagers get to the point where they don’t want to exercise with you—their parents—make alternate arrangements. Kids do often reach a stage where they only want to hang out with their friends. That’s okay, but see what you can do to arrange for them to spend time with friends doing activities.

It takes discipline and commitment, and it’s hard to change. But the reward is that you’re influencing the health of your entire family.

C. Guber, Carol Guber’s Type 2 Diabetes Life Plan, Broadway Books, New York, New York, 2002; Diabetes Care, November 2004.
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