Lower your child’s risk for diabetes

Diabetes is thought of as a disease that strikes adults, but the number of children diagnosed with diabetes is increasing.

We’ve all heard the news that the number of adults diagnosed with diabetes is increasing.  But did you know that the number of children diagnosed for diabetes is also increasing?  Diabetes has traditionally been thought of as a disease that generally strikes adults over the age of 40. However, it is quickly becoming one of the most diagnosed diseases in children according to the Centers for Disease Control .

Typically children are diagnosed with Type I diabetes, a chronic condition where the pancreas is unable to produce insulin. But now, increasingly, children are being diagnosed with Type II diabetes.

Type II diabetes occurs when your body’s cells are no longer properly able to use the insulin needed to keep blood sugar (glucose) at a normal level. As glucose builds up in the blood steam, your pancreas becomes unable to produce the amount of insulin needed to maintain normal levels of blood glucose. While this form of diabetes used to be called “Adult Onset Diabetes,” we now know that children as young as preschoolers can be at risk for developing the disease.

So what are the steps you can take to help lower your child’s risk of developing diabetes? Simply put, follow the same steps you would take to keep your child healthy. These steps include:

  • Eating healthy, well-balanced meals on most days. Following the information found at MyPlate will give you steps to ensure your child is receiving all of the nutrients needed for healthy growth and a lower risk of developing diabetes.
  • Encouraging your child to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables. Plant foods are lower in fat, salt and calories and are full of the important vitamins and minerals needed for optimum growth. Children eating fruits and veggies are less likely to fill up on the higher calorie, sugary, salty foods. For more tips on ways to add fruits and vegetables to your family meals, see Fruits & Veggies: More Matters
  • Limiting foods high in sugar, as well as salty snacks. While consuming large amounts of sugar will not cause diabetes, foods high in sugar and salt tend to be higher in calories. Excess calories could lead to an overweight or obese child; overweight children have a much higher risk of developing diabetes.
  • Keeping your child (and the whole family) physically active. Children should be active for at least one hour every day. For suggestions on ways to do this visit MyPlate – Physical Activity.
  • Limiting screen time: television, computers and video games. No more than two hours a day should be spent in front of screens for older children, and one hour a day for younger children.
  • Be aware of the symptoms of diabetes, especially if diabetes runs in your family. Watch for excessive thirst, excessive urination which may include bed wetting after your child has been potty trained, sudden unexplained weight loss, irritability, and numbness, tingling or itchiness of skin.

For more information on diabetes, contact the American Diabetes Association and visit the Michigan State Univesity (MSU) Extension Diabetes webpage.

For more information about nutrition, disease prevention, and other issues of interest to Michigan families contact a MSU Extension educator in your area.

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