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As we all know, obesity is on the rise – not only in adults but children as well. With the generation we live in there has been an influx of the fast food generation; paired with less exercise – leading to a disastrous result. Did you know that in most states PE is no longer required in schools? When it is available it is often less than an hour per week.

We have a generation that is not as active as we once were. I don’t think it is that our children are lazy, not do I think it is necessarily video games that are the culprit. I think the issue lies with safety. When we were children we left the house in the morning, played outside all day and came back for dinner. My father had a whistle that could be heard around the neighborhood. Our friends knew that whistle, which was quite embarrassing ;). Today, I do not let my children outside for long periods of time (and they are older). When they were younger, I didn’t even allow them out front without my husband or me. We were able to run in an out of everyone’s homes without fear or issue. Today, I don’t allow my children in anyone’s homes that I don’t know BOTH parents, and who is home at the time. It is simply a different world, a scarier world! So, I refuse to agree that our children are lazy by nature. We have potentially made them more sedentary due to our world today.

What is Type II diabetes?

Our digestive system breaks down carbohydrates into blood sugar glucose. The pancreas creates a hormone called insulin to lead glucose from the blood vessels into the cells of the body to be used for energy. When a lot of high calorie and most importantly high glycemic foods are eaten over a long period of time, the pancreas simply wears out.

In type 2 diabetes, the cells in a child’s body are resistant to the effects of insulin and glucose builds up in the bloodstream. Eventually, this causes glucose to reach dangerous levels in the body.

Over time, the body becomes increasingly less able to handle all the glucose in the blood vessels. The high blood sugar can then lead to diabetes complications, such as heart disease, blindness, and kidney failure.

What Children Are At Risk For Type II Diabetes?

The following risk factors are associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes in children:

  • Being overweight
  • Family history of diabetes
  • Female gender
  • Specific ethnic groups (American Indian, African-American, Asian, or Hispanic/Latino)
  • Other problems with insulin resistance (most people with type 2 diabetes in childhood are diagnosed at the start of puberty, a developmental stage where there’s increased resistance)

The single greatest risk factor for type 2 diabetes in children is excess weight. In the U.S., nearly one out of every five children is considered to be overweight. Once a child is overweight, chances are more than doubled that the child will develop diabetes. One or more of these factors may contribute to excess weight or obesity:

  • Unhealthy eating patterns
  • Lack of physical activity
  • An inherited tendency
  • Rarely, a hormone problem or other medical condition

In addition, as with adults, the risk of type 2 diabetes in children appears to be associated with excess abdominal weight. This obesity pattern increases the chance of insulin resistance and the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Symptoms of Type II Diabetes:

  • Increased hunger or thirst, even after eating
  • Dry mouth
  • Frequent urination
  • Fatigue
  • Blurred vision
  • Heavy breathing
  • Slow healing of sores or cuts
  • Itchy skin
  • Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet

It is time to visit your child’s doctor if you notice any of these symptoms of diabetes in your child. If your child is overweight or obese, it is important to have your child screened for Type II diabetes. Ignorance IS NOT bliss.

What Can You Do To Lessen Your Children’s Risk of Type II Diabetes?

The same steps used to treat type 2 diabetes in children can also prevent it. Reduce fats and sweets in your child’s diet. Make sure your child gets physical activity each day, and make it a family effort. In fact, studies show that exercise has a dramatic effect on reducing insulin resistance. These two strategies can help your child achieve or maintain a normal weight and normal blood sugar levels.

Special Concerns With Type 2 Diabetes in Children

Children — especially teens — may have a tough time making changes to prevent or manage type 2 diabetes. You can help by following some of these suggestions:

  • Talk with your child honestly but supportively about health and weight. Encourage your child to speak up about his or her concerns.
  • Do not separate out your child for special treatment. Your entire family can benefit from making changes in diet and activity.
  • Make changes gradually. Just as it took time for diabetes to develop, it will take time to achieve better health.
  • Increase activities your child enjoys, while at the same time reducing the amount of time your family spends watching TV or playing video games.
  • If your child refuses to follow his or her plan, try to find out why. Teens, for example, are dealing with hormone changes, demands on their time, peer pressure, and other factors that seem more important to them than taking care of diabetes.
  • Set small, step-wise goals. Plan special rewards for your child when he or she meets each goal. Then move on to the next.
  • Talk to a diabetes educator, doctor, dietitian, or other diabetes professional for more ideas on how to help your child become healthier.

If your child is obese or overweight, or if they have been diagnosed with Type II diabetes, this does not mean you are bad parent. It is simply our American lifestyle. But, our lifestyle is not an excuse to do nothing. Help your children make good choices. Make good choices in your own life, they are watching!