November is National Diabetes Awareness Month. Diabetes, a disease that affects 25.8 million children and adults in the U.S., is one of the fastest growing health issues in our country. Broken into two types, Type 1 and Type 2, the latter is the most common form and the scariest threat for our American children. According to the World Health Organization, increased consumption of energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods with high amounts of sugar and saturated fats combined with sedentary living has resulted in a global epidemic of obesity and in turn, Type 2 Diabetes.
Based on data from 2002-2003, approximately 3,700 American youth under 20 were diagnosed annually with Type 2 Diabetes. The same study reports that children between 10-20 years old represented 14.9% of newly diagnosed cases of diabetes in non-Hispanic whites, 46.1% in Hispanic youth, 57.8% in African Americans, 69.7 % in Asian/Pacific Islanders, and 86.2% in American Indian youths. Needless to say, Type 2 Diabetes is a fast growing problem we can’t ignore any longer.
In many instances for children, Type 2 Diabetes goes hand-in-hand with obesity. Both are considered “lifestyle diseases” with certain factors increasing a child’s risk. .According to MayoClinic.com, these include weight, inactivity, family history, race and gender. Therefore children who are overweight, sedentary, or have a parent or sibling with Type 2 Diabetes are at higher risk of developing the disease.
Our GoGirlGo! program, with its activity-based lessons and healthy living message threaded throughout, is just one thing we are doing to fight the recent onslaught of childhood obesity and Type 2 Diabetes. Learn more about our entire award-winning program here.
But what can you do – today—that will help your children live the healthiest, happiest lives possible? Teaching them about smart food choices and to love physical activity is a proven key way to avoid these particular lifestyle diseases.
Contrary to popular perception, there’s no diabetes diet. Your child shouldn’t be restricted to a lifetime of boring, bland foods. Instead, your child needs plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains — foods that are high in nutrition and low in fat and calories. A healthy diet also limits sodas, juices, sweets and has fewer foods containing animal fats. This type of diet is generally the best eating plan for the entire family. Even sugary foods are OK once in a while, as long as they’re included in your child’s meal plan.
Everyone needs regular aerobic exercise, and children who are at risk for or who have Type 2 Diabetes are no exception. Encourage your child to get regular physical activity. Sign up for a sports team or dance lessons. Better yet, get in the act together. Play catch in the backyard. Take a walk or run through your neighborhood. Visit an indoor climbing wall or local pool. Make physical activity part of your child’s daily routine.
The American Diabetes Association has many great educational resources. Check out their website here.