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Thanks to the “triple whammy” of an unhealthy diet, a sedentary lifestyle and genetic factors, type 2 diabetes is becoming more common in younger people, according to Qing Jia, MD, an endocrinologist on the medical staff at Baylor Medical Center at Garland.
“Traditionally, type 2 diabetes wouldn’t start until a person’s middle age,” says Dr. Jia. “Now that is trending younger, especially with the obesity epidemic.” Endocrinologists who treat adults often hear from pediatricians asking whether and how to use adult diabetes medications in children. “They’re not adults, but they’re getting this adult disease,” she says.
Rebecca Gebhard, RN, MS, CDE, a diabetes educator at the Diabetes Care Center at Baylor Garland, offers tips for parents to help children and teens avoid type 2 diabetes:
Limit screen time. Children and teens spend on average seven hours a day in front of a computer, TV or video-game screen. “Set a limit of less than two hours a day,” Gebhard says.
Increase physical activity. Aim for 60 minutes of activity every day—running, riding a bike, walking the dog—with regular bursts of aerobic and strength-building activity. If the neighborhood isn’t ideal, kids can get involved in organized sports or school activities.
Follow a healthy, balanced diet. This means eating a good breakfast (not from the drive-through or coffee place); avoiding fried and processed foods; and making sure kids get protein, low fat dairy, whole grains, and fruits and veggies. Soda, fast food and desserts should be treats, not part of the daily routine.
Although it can be a challenge for parents to get kids to eat well and exercise more, it’s worth it. Children will be healthier, have more energy for activities at school and with their friends, and feel good about themselves during a time of life when self-image is so important.
Gebhard concludes, “A child will be a much healthier individual, not just in childhood and adolescence but throughout life, if he’s engaged in activities that nourish both mind and body.”
• “Make-your-own” egg and cheese on a toasted English muffin• Fruit juices diluted with water to cut calories and sugar
• On whole-grain bread: peanut butter and banana; lean turkey or beef with mustard or light mayo; tuna salad • Sliced veggies with low fat ranch dressing
• Homemade trail mix: nuts, raisins, dry cereal, sunflower seeds• A piece of fruit• Hard-boiled eggs• Homemade peanut butter or oatmeal cookies with low fat milk
For a referral to a pediatrician on the medical staff at Baylor Garland, call 1.800.4BAYLOR.
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