As the number of obese kids in the United States rises, so does the number of kids who have type 2 diabetes. Diabetes can lead to serious problems, such as kidney failure, blindness and heart disease.
Some of these problems can be prevented, but only if the disease is diagnosed and treated. Type 2 diabetes may not cause any noticeable symptoms. That’s why it’s important to know what puts your child at risk for diabetes so you can take action.
Most parents are aware that being overweight increases a child’s risk for diabetes. But what other factors play a role in the development of type 2 diabetes? And what are the right steps to take if your child is at risk?
Risk factors for type 2 diabetes
Your child may be at higher risk for diabetes if he or she:
Is overweight. Not all overweight kids have diabetes, but obesity is the number one risk factor.
Is not physically active. Being inactive boosts a child’s risk for type 2 diabetes.
Has a parent or other close relative who has type 2 diabetes.
Is Native American, African American, Hispanic/Latino, Pacific Islander or Asian American. For reasons that are unknown, children of these races tend to get diabetes more often than white children. Kids of any race can get it, though.
Has certain other medical conditions, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol or polycystic ovary syndrome.
What you can do
If you’re concerned about your child, especially if he or she has more than one risk factor, call your child’s doctor. Experts recommend that children at risk for diabetes:
Have a blood sugar test for diabetes
Start testing at age 10, or sooner if puberty starts earlier
Be tested again every 2 years
If your child has any risk factors, there are steps you can take now to keep the disease from developing or progressing. Help your child:
Make healthy food choices. Keep a variety of fruits, vegetables and whole-grain foods on hand. Ban junk food and high-calorie sodas.
Get off the couch. Kids need at least 30 minutes of exercise a day. Limit screen time (TV, computer, video game, cell phone) and encourage your child to ride a bike, take a brisk walk or shoot some hoops. Better yet, go along.
Reach a healthy weight. Healthy food choices and daily exercise can help a child get his or her weight under control and lower the risk for diabetes.