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Be (Pro)Active: Beat Childhood Diabetes

Be (Pro)Active: Beat Childhood Diabetes

The most spook-tacular time of year will soon be here! Since the Halloween season is synonymous with frights, sweets and treats, it’s the perfect time to shed light on something far scarier than any haunted house: Type 2 diabetes. At one time, the disease almost exclusively affected adults. In recent years, however, the number of children and teenagers being diagnosed is on the upswing.

Though frightening, there’s good news. According to Erica Witcher, a community dietitian at Mantachie Rural Health Care, Inc., there are some things you can do to help reduce your child’s risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. What’s more, a positive diagnosis is much more manageable today than in the past. 

“This disease, while not curable, is much easier to treat with growing technology and [the ability] to better control blood sugars,” Witcher explained.

The main type of sugar in our blood is glucose. It’s the primary source of energy that fuels the body. In order to process glucose the hormone insulin is needed, and that’s where the problem comes in for those with diabetes; they’re either unable to make insulin, or the insulin they have doesn’t function as it should.

Two-of-a-Kind

The main types of diabetes are Type 1 and Type 2. 

“Type 1 is different from Type 2 because it [Type 1] is an autoimmune disease, which means that our body attacks itself,” Witcher explained. Because its exact cause is unknown, it’s virtually impossible to prevent Type 1 diabetes. 

In the case of Type 2 diabetes, the pancreas makes insulin, but the body doesn’t respond to it properly. Unlike Type 1, there are several ways you can prevent the onset of Type 2 diabetes during childhood.

As with most illnesses, the earlier diabetes is diagnosed, the better. Blood tests are the only way to confirm with certainty whether or not a child has developed diabetes. 

Healthy Choices Make Healthy Habits

The main risk factors for Type 2 diabetes are obesity and a sedentary lifestyle. While there’s no way to completely reduce a child’s risk of developing Type 2, there are steps that will lower the odds, such as eating healthy foods and staying physically active. 

“We don’t restrict kids from much because they need calories to grow. So we as dietitians and diabetes educators recommend balanced meals and snacks,” Witcher explained. “Adding a lean protein with meals is great! Baking instead of frying is also a great way to keep things healthy. Kids are all about convenience. Have fresh fruit around to snack on instead of chips. Keep nut butters around, which make good dips for fruit, veggies, crackers and bread.” 

“I would say don’t deprive kids of junk food because then they will want to sneak and eat it, which isn’t good. This may cause a bad relationship with food. I recommend eating healthy most of the time but still have treats. Moderation is key,” Witcher concluded.

Daniella DiRienzo is a self-proclaimed southerner who graduated from the University of Southern Mississippi in 2011 and has been working as a freelance writer ever since.

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