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Diabetes On the Rise: How to Minimize Your Kids Risk

When we discuss type 2 diabetes we often picture older adults struggling with declining health and “later-life issues”. This narrative never really transferred over to kids in the past in the manner it does now. The common understanding was that children develop type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes was reserved for adults. However, today’s standard American diet is resulting in a change to that preconception. The latest study published in the New England Journal of Medicine reports that the numbers for kids aged 10-19 diagnosed with type II diabetes have increased by five percent over the past decade. How is that possible?

Obesity is Responsible for the Higher Rates of Type II Diabetes.

It is widely accepted in the medical community that aside from genetics, obesity is the biggest factor in developing type II diabetes. According to a new report from CBS, approximately one in five school-aged-children are considered obese. This alarming statistic is what is primarily responsible for the climb in the numbers of childhood type 2 diabetes diagnoses. There are now over 20,000 children now diagnosed with type II diabetes in America alone.

Obesity among children is now considered an epidemic, and the reason for this is the sedentary lifestyle that the average American youth leads. Gone are the days of old where kids came home from school and ran around outside and played until the street lights came on. Kids are now dropping their backpacks, grabbing some highly processed, sugar-laden snacks and camping out in front of their electronics. They’ve kind of forgotten how to be physically active.

It’s not all their fault. Children don’t go out and buy their own groceries, buy their own electronics or set up their gaming accounts. Parents are to blame for the condition of our youth’s health as well. As parents who work and are extremely busy, it has become easier for us to buy the fast food and keep them happy with electronics while we finish housework or business. This behavior isn’t so innocent. It has caused a whole slew of health issues – not just for adults, but for the children who are just starting out in life.

Most parents are well intentioned and want to do the best for their families. We aren’t deliberately trying to make them unhealthy. We don’t want that for our children. After all, if you are here, you are certainly a conscientious individual who is striving to make better choices for your young ones. Educating yourself about the dangers of these lifestyle choices is the first step in providing a healthy environment for everyone in the household. Next, you need to start figuring out what actions are necessary to reduce unhealthy habits and risks for diabetes.

Here Are Some Other Helpful Tips to Revamping Your Family’s Lifestyle:

Little monkey sees what big monkey does. Parents, with all our faults, are the superheroes in our children’s lives. They watch us and try to emulate what we do. We’ve all had that moment where you catch your child pretending to do what you are doing like talking on the phone, cleaning and telling off that crazy driver who cut you off (tell me I’m not the only one). So when making an overhaul to your household health, it needs to start with you, the role model. We may think that our personal habits of grab and go and chugging sugar filled caffeinated drinks are only affecting us and our health, but our little ones are watching and they’re learning that it is acceptable. Beginning a healthier lifestyle for your children needs to start with you. Make the changes so that they can see how important it is for a happier, healthier life.

Get interactive. Start getting your children involved in the healthy lifestyle decisions your family chooses to adopt. Use teachable moments to discuss how what they are doing is making them healthy. Try to stay positive. Children respond well to positive encouragement. Educate them on why it’s important to follow a balanced diet and why you need to move your body often. Bring them along to the grocery store and have them pick out produce. Involve them in the process of meal planning and preparation. Do it together and make it fun.

Revamp your grocery list. This is a huge factor in reducing your family’s risk for obesity and the development of type II diabetes down the road. I know the processed foods are so much easier and less time consuming to prepare and have a shelf life longer than our existence – but at what cost to everyone’s health? It’s not worth it. Fill your cart with unprocessed, fresh, whole foods. In doing so, you are upping the intake of naturally sourced vitamins and minerals that are crucial for any healthy growing body and reducing the intake of additives and sugars. The FDA suggests you break your plate into four sections: Protein, whole grains, fruit and veggies.

Side note: Don’t be fooled when buying fruit snacks and on-the-go organic granola. These may seem harmless, but they’re filled with sugar (organic sugar is still sugar). Regardless of where sugar came from, it is still sugar and ingesting excess amounts of sugar over time will lead to obesity.

A good rule of thumb is to buy food items that are as close to their original state as possible. The more modified usually means the more preservatives and sugars have been added. Keep fresh fruits and veggies available to grab and eat on the go. Kids can’t eat what they don’t have, so leave the junk food at the store.

Group play. Get the whole family active together. Schedule outings and go outside and play together. Kids are always more interested when the “big kids” are involved. Hit the park, go on an outdoor scavenger hunt, jump rope, hopscotch. Let your inner child come out and have some fun with your littles. It’ll be good for you as well.

Set limits. Electronics have become the new nanny. When are children are out of control or driving us bonkers it is so easy to grab our phones and turn on their favorite show just to get a minute of peace. However, in doing so, we are ultimately teaching them that electronics are the best options for dealing with boredom or an abundance of energy. You’ve got to break that bad habit by setting limits on how much screen time they get. That goes for you too, parents. Keep the internet surfing to a minimum and spend some quality time with the family. We’ve all done it; opened up the search engine to answer a question and three hours later we’re still surfing the net. It’s easy to get lost in the mind-numbing activity of watching the screen, but you should never sit for long periods of time without moving.

Little changes over time make a huge difference.

The last bit of advice I am going to give you, is don’t give up. These changes will take patience, preparation and trial and error. Some days will be easier than others, but no matter what, don’t give up. It takes some time to get everyone on board with these changes and it takes time to get used to new habits. Keep trying and pick your battles. Making gradual changes will make it easier for your family to adjust and adopt these new habits as their own. Think of how these changes will create a foundation for you and your child’s healthier future. You want them around as much as they do you, so keep at it. Type 2 diabetes in kids is a real problem, but if we provide an environment that promotes healthy living it does not have to be the outcome.

Dr. Joshua Bletzinger from Fox Valley Integrated Health earned his doctor of chiropractic from Palmer College of Chiropractic and a bachelor of science in kinesiology from Northern Illinois University. With post-doctorate specialty training in functional endocrinology and clinical nutrition, Dr. Bletzinger and his staff have positioned Performance Clinics to serve the growing need for reversing chronic health conditions.

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