We all want to pay close attention to our children’s health. But sometimes, in order to care for them, we may have to take a step back and try to look at them the way a doctor might.
You may have heard that type 2 diabetes is increasingly being diagnosed in young people in America. But is your child at risk for diabetes?
Take the time to ask some difficult questions about your child’s health habits: Does your child eat a healthy diet? Is he or she active enough? Is he or she overweight?
“Parents need to pay attention to the habits their children are learning and make sure they are healthy habits,” says Barbara Marshall, MD, pediatric endocrinologist at the MultiCare Mary Bridge Pediatric Endocrine and Diabetes Clinic.
Healthy habits matter. Being overweight and inactive are risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes. family history and ethnicity also play a role for some children. If you do see risk factors, take heart.
“The positive thing we are learning about type 2 diabetes in young people is that lifestyle changes can make a difference,” Dr. Marshall says.
Healthy eating habits
“All children need to eat a healthier diet,” Dr. Marshall says. “The first thing I recommend is cutting out soda and juice because kids are drinking far too many calories a day.”
She also advises parents to:
- Serve fruits and vegetables.
- Watch portion sizes.
- Set regular eating times.
- Avoid skipping meals.
- Have meals sitting down at a table.
Kids should get at least 60 minutes of activity a day, Dr. Marshall says. “It does not need to be formal exercise,” she says. “Playing on the playground counts.”
You can help boost activity levels by reducing TV and computer time. When kids spend more than an hour a day in front of the screen, their risk for diabetes increases.
To help keep kids active, you can:
- Assign active chores.
- Have kids walk or ride their bikes to school.
- Find a physical activity the whole family enjoys.
Healthy habits can also help keep weight at a healthy level, which is crucial for diabetes prevention.
“Weight loss decreases your risk of diabetes, but studies have shown that for young people who are heavy, even weight maintenance reduces risk,” Dr. Marshall says.
Families have an important role to play. “Lifestyle changes have to be family changes,” Dr. Marshall says. “Success comes when the family works together to have a positive impact on their health.”
Diabetes Care at Mary Bridge
Type 2 diabetes is increasingly being diagnosed in young people, but type 1 diabetes still accounts for many cases of diabetes among children.
The good news is that management strategies can help children with type 1 diabetes live healthy lives. The care team at the Mary Bridge Pediatric Endocrine and Diabetes Clinic are specially trained to provide the education and support you need to manage the disease.
The Clinic offers individual education with a nurse-certified diabetes educator and a support group in a child- and family-friendly environment. For more information, visit our Mary Bridge Diabetes Education Program online or call 253.792.6630.