How Parents Can Help Prevent a Youth Diabetes Crisis
Health experts don’t have a crystal ball, but they are looking ahead—and what they’ve seen concerns them. If trends continue, they estimate as many as 220,000 people ages 20 and younger will have type 2 diabetes by the year 2060.
Plan a healthier tomorrow
Fortunately, these forecasts aren’t fate. There’s a lot parents and kids can do to change course, including making lifestyle changes and getting screenings.
Doing so would lead to big benefits. Preventing diabetes can help ward off many other future health problems for kids and teens. And they’ll need fewer specialists, medications, and other treatments along the way.
Turn the tide for your children
Some factors that contribute to the risk for type 2 diabetes are beyond your control. However, there are steps you can take every day to offer your children a healthier future. These include:
Encouraging exercise. Kids should move about an hour a day, but it doesn’t have to be all at once or part of an official sport. Count 10- to 15-minute bursts of any type of movement, including dancing, walking the dog, or playing at recess.
Supporting medical maturity. Help your child make wise health decisions. For instance, teach them to start reading food labels. Allow preteens and teens one-on-one time with their health care provider to promote confidence and independence.
Focusing on family meals. Eat together at the table when you can, instead of in front of a TV, computer, or phone. Plan well-balanced, satisfying meals to share. You’ll model good nutrition, and you’ll build bonds that can help you navigate future challenges, together.
Look beyond the scale
Being overweight increases children’s risk for type 2 diabetes. But the two don’t always go hand in hand. In fact, one in four kids weren’t obese when they were diagnosed. So even if your child is at a healthy weight, keep up with regular well-child visits. Tell the pediatrician about other risk factors—for instance, a family history of diabetes—and ask for advice about prevention and screening.