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Prediabetes in Children

Natalie
Stein
August 26, 2018
Prediabetes in Children
Lark

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Prediabetes in Children

Type 2 diabetes used to be a disease for older adults, but it is increasingly more common among younger adults and even children. In fact, 208,000 children under 20 have type 2 diabetes, and many more have prediabetes.

The single biggest risk factor is excess body weight, and 1 out of three children in the U.S. are overweight. Additional risk factors include:

  • Being a girl.
  • Having a family history of diabetes.
  • Being Hispanic/Latino, Asian American, American Indian, or African-American.

While the condition and its progression are similar in children as in adults, insulin resistance is more aggressive in children. Children are more likely to experience progression to diabetes, and then complications of diabetes, more quickly than adults are. Having prediabetes or diabetes earlier in life is also dangerous because it increases risk of developing complications over the course of years.

As with the risk for prediabetes in adults, the risk for prediabetes in children can be reduced with healthy lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, eating healthier, and increasing physical activity. These are some strategies.

  • Encourage physical activity in schools, such as by requiring physical education classes.
  • Encouraging children to walk or bike to school, and walking with younger children.
  • Making water easily available so children choose it instead of sodas and sports drinks.
  • Making fresh vegetables and fruit available for snacks instead of processed snacks such as chips and cookies.
  • Limiting screen time in front of a computer, phone, or television, or playing video games.
  • Including parents in interventions, since they are role models for their children and also providers of food.

Making a healthy lifestyle part of your family culture can lead to big gains for everyone. It can lower your risk for prediabetes, as well as that of your children. 

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