To Your Health: Type 2 diabetes occurring more in adolescents
By Cheryl Boss May 29, 2012 2:44PM
Updated: July 3, 2012 12:24PM
For years, Type 2 diabetes most commonly developed in patients age 40 and older. We are now seeing a steady increase in pre diabetes and Type 2 diabetes in adolescents age 10 to 19.
The culprit? Childhood obesity.
The incidence of childhood obesity has tripled in the last 30 years, bringing with it an increase in associated diseases including Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and arthritis.
For the first time in two centuries, this generation of children may have a shorter life expectancy than their parents. We can no longer ignore the effect poor diet and lack of exercise is having on our children.
It is now protocol for doctors to order blood glucose screenings for obese children. At the Franciscan St. James Center for Diabetes, we are seeing many more young pre diabetic patients, whose glucose levels are higher than normal range, but not high enough to be considered Type 2 diabetes.
Eating excessive portion sizes and consuming large amount of calories contribute to weight gain that forces the pancreas to work much harder to keep the glucose levels normal.
Even things perceived as healthy, such as fruit juices, contribute to the problem, with kids drinking over-sized portions of sugar-filled beverages. Additionally, today’s children are much more sedentary. So, they’re not burning the calories off.
When I counsel young patients at the Center for Diabetes, their parents are present. I explain the entire family must become involved in the shift to a healthier lifestyle. Family participation keeps the child from feeling singled out or punished, and builds in positive reinforcement.
Here are some basics I share with my young patients and their parents:
Physical activity is key
Children require 60 minutes of physical activity each day. Unfortunately, some schools offer gym only twice each week. Especially at this time of year, I encourage kids to go outside, run and play with friends, shoot baskets — anything that involves movement. In addition to traditional team sports, swimming, tennis and track are great ways to get exercise.
Today, we drive our kids everywhere. Whenever possible, they should walk or ride their bicycles instead.
Planning family activities and getting into an active routine is an important, positive step. Long walks along the many south suburban walking paths and parks provide a perfect opportunity to catch up with each other’s lives.
Practice what you preach
The entire family needs to be on board with dietary changes, with parents taking the lead.
It’s easy to pick up a quick meal and eat in front of the television. But if we pay closer attention and make the effort to change, the rewards are many.
Begin by eliminating the availability of sugar-filled drinks and high calorie snacks at home. We can’t expect kids to resist these ready temptations, especially when other family members are indulging in front of them.
Local schools have done an excellent job of replacing high calorie, high sugar snacks and beverages in vending machines with water, calorie free drinks and healthier lower calorie snack options. As a community, we must recognize the epidemic that’s occurring and be more diligent about paying attention to what our kids eat and drink.
Changing the way we think about food and physical activity begins in the family. It really is a lifelong journey. If we can make changes early, it will to pay off now and in the long run.
Cheryl Boss is a diabetes nurse practitioner at the Franciscan St. James Center for Diabetes. Franciscan St. James Health is a member of the Southland Health Alliance.