By Adriana Carrillo Iregui, MD
Medical Director of the Diabetes Program
About Dr. Carrillo
For the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and several other major health organizations, November is National Diabetes Awareness Month, an opportunity to raise awareness of both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. We can also share the importance of preventing diabetes and managing it when it occurs during this time.
This year, diabetes awareness might be more important than ever, particularly for our community. Both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes rates are higher than ever before among children and adolescents.
This increase in pediatric diabetes became clear in a recent report from the SEARCH for diabetes study published in the medical journal JAMA which examined rates of diabetes in children and teens in 2002 and again in 2017. They found that the prevalence of T1 increased from 1.48 to 1.9 per 1000 and from 0.34 to 0.67 per 1000 for Type 2 diabetes. Overall, the American Diabetes Association estimates that 210,000 Americans under age 20 have diabetes.
Why It's on the Rise
This trend is alarming, and if you are a parent, you probably wonder what is fueling this trend and what things you can do to prevent your children from getting diabetes. As it turns out, the most likely reason for the rising rates of pediatric diabetes T2 is the similar rising rates of pediatric obesity.
Obesity is one of the primary risk factors for diabetes, especially Type 2. Currently, one out of every three children in America is overweight or obese. Add in poor diet and increasingly sedentary lifestyles among today's children, and it is easy to see why diabetes is slowly becoming an epidemic in America.;
Preventing and Treating Pediatric Diabetes
Fortunately, it is not too late to reverse our fortunes and start turning the tide against pediatric diabetes for our children. The CDC notes that some of the most important things you can do for your children to prevent obesity and diabetes are encouraging physical activity, good food choices, and a healthy weight range. Here are some tips that can help in that effort:
- Stay active. Encourage your kids to strive for 60 minutes of physical activity a day. Either in smaller sessions or all at once.
- Limit screen time. No more than two hours per day is recommended.
- Get outside. Being active outdoors together is a great way to promote activity for the entire family.
- Drink water. It is an excellent alternative to sugary drinks.
- Eat healthy snacks. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, and string cheese are all good options.
- Eat healthier meals. Meals with lean protein, vegetables, and whole grains are a much better choice than fast food.
- Serve smaller portions. Your kids can always ask for seconds if they are still hungry.
If Your Child Has Diabetes
If your child is diagnosed with diabetes, they can live a healthy, everyday life. As a parent, you will need to work closely with your health care provider to determine the right treatment for your child. Typically, it involves several lifestyle choices, medication, and monitoring to ensure that your child's blood sugar stays regulated in order to help avoid the complications of diabetes. Typical steps involve:
- Blood sugar monitoring
- Insulin or other medications
- Regular exercise
- Healthy eating
- Carbohydrate counting
Recent statistics have shown that National Diabetes Awareness Month this year may be more important than ever, especially regarding children and adolescents. As parents, health care providers, and a concerned community working together, we can make positive choices to raise healthier kids and help mitigate the rate of pediatric diabetes in the future.