While many believe that only adults are capable of getting diabetes, unfortunately several children of today are being diagnosed with Type II Diabetes at a very young age. While there are some predispositional factors that put certain children at risk of diabetes over others, there are factors that can be controlled in order to prevent the development of Type II Diabetes in children.
Risk Factors: What Are They?
Pre-disposition. There are certain pre-dispositional factors that cannot be controlled for when it comes to the Type II Diabetes. The risk for developing Type II Diabetes increases if:
- there is a family history of the disease
- the child is of a certain ethnic minority
- the child’s body tends to store fat primarily in the abdomen
- the child’s blood sugar levels are higher than average
Unhealthy Nutrition. Most kids prefer Mac-and-Cheese to broccoli, so why are some kids getting Type II Diabetes while others aren’t? There have been various studies on chemicals, salt and sugar in foods and how that can affect someone with or without a predisposition for diabetes. Soft and fruit drinks contain various chemicals and large amounts of sugar, which are major risk factors for diabetes.
Tip: As a general rule, parents should avoid giving their children sugary drinks and snacks. Instead, why not try making all-natural fruit smoothies with the kids, letting them work the blender and choose their own ingredients? In addition, by taking the time to drink more water yourself, your child will see drinking more water as a habit rather than as some form of punishment.
Lack of Exercise. Inactivity and a lack of exercise is another major risk factor in developing Type II Diabetes. Kids who don’t move around enough aren’t allowing their muscles to develop, and they also aren’t using the body’s energy potential. Diabetes is based on levels of glucose in your bloodstream. With high levels of glucose, children need to be outside, working off the excess sugar and energy.
Diabetes Prevention 101 for Kids
You can’t keep track of everything that kids eat, and if you try, it’s likely going to make them extremely unhappy. The key to getting kids to eat healthier and exercise is to incorporate it into their daily lives. Kids love mashed potatoes, but whipped cauliflower looks and almost tastes the same with a bit of cheese and chives, thus eliminating all the extra sugar from starchy potatoes. Shredded zucchini can be used in place of pasta, therefore helping to eliminate high blood glucose levels. There are many healthy variations that you can make–however, if you really want to make a difference in what kids eat and how they burn energy, you have to be the example of what a healthy lifestyle looks like!
Getting Exercise Doesn’t Have to be Boring. Many kids will not want to run for the “fun of it,” although the aerobic exercise that they get through running is extremely good for them. Instead of forcing kids to run laps around a track or your neighborhood, try and develop activities that keep them active without feeling like they are actually exercising. It also helps if you participate with them – especially if it’s a whole-family effort.
So how do you make this fun? All playgrounds should have monkey bars or a jungle gym. Challenge yourself to bring your kid to a playground or gym at least three times a week while also making sure that you participate in challenges. Once kids start getting used to a routine of exercise, it becomes an every day thing that starts a lifelong love of being fit.
Focus Their Energy. Why not try yoga for kids? Yoga is so beneficial for children because it helps with mood, anxiety, muscle flexibility, balance and stress. It’s also low impact, so if you already have a child who’s overweight, yoga can be a slow starting point to get into stretching and building strength as well as joint health before moving onto more-demanding types of activities.
Playing Games. Playing games is fun for any child, so incorporating them into exercise is a great way to get kids active. Games like tag and hide-and-seek allow kids to play with others while also making them run around a lot. This is also true for activities like kickball and frisbee. In addition, creating a family scavenger hunt through the woods can allow kids to have fun while looking for clues (of course, make sure you stay with them and supervise any activities so they don’t get hurt). Obstacle courses are also another great activity that has kids run, jump, crawl, etc. while also enjoying themselves.
What other tips do you have for preventing and managing diabetes for kids? Share them below!