Type 2 diabetes, commonly referred to as “adult-onset diabetes,” is unfortunately becoming an increasing problem for children and adolescents.
Diabetes can lead to many potential complications, including heart disease, kidney disease, blindness and nerve damage. Major risk factors for the development of Type 2 diabetes include obesity and a genetic predisposition.
Weight loss — even just a moderate amount — and regular exercise are the most important interventions to help prevent prediabetes developing into full-blown diabetes. A loss of even a few pounds and the addition of a regular exercise routine (ideally for at least 30 minutes per day, five days per week) can significantly affect the progression from prediabetes to diabetes.
Weight loss and lifestyle changes can be difficult, especially when a child or teen doesn’t have family support for their efforts. Prediabetes in a child or teen calls for family motivation to change and parental involvement. These can be just as important as medical interventions — if not more so. Given that Type 2 diabetes runs in families, a healthier diet and more active lifestyle will likely benefit the whole family.
Above all, don’t shame or nag. Keep your messages about weight loss and exercise positive and encouraging while remaining honest with the child about why it is important to make these lifestyle changes.
This Scripps Health and Wellness tip was provided by Dania Lindenberg, MD, a pediatrician at Scripps Coastal Medical Center in San Diego.