Many are misinformed about what diabetes is, and how it affects the human body. Diabetes is a disorder of the human metabolism (the way our bodies use digested food for growth and energy).
There are three main types: Type 1, Type 2, and gestational diabetes. Those who have Type 1 diabetes are usually born with the disease, Type 2 diabetes is developed over time and has a number of risk factors, and gestational diabetes is developed during pregnancy.
Only about five percent of all people with diabetes have Type 1 diabetes, while gestational diabetes is even more rare, appearing in approximately 3 to 4 percent of patients. With this in mind, that means that a majority of those diagnosed with diabetes have developed the condition from their eating habits and overall unhealthy lifestyle. Children who are inactive and do not eat a healthy diet are at a high risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. And although Type 2 diabetes is treatable, the risk of heart disease and stroke is greatly increased. With obesity becoming an epidemic in America, it is more important than ever to ensure your child’s long-term wellness.
The following information is meant to help better educate all people about the risk factors and treatments. If you are displaying any of these symptoms or feel you are at a high risk of developing diabetes, consult with your doctor immediately.
What Are the Symptoms?
There are several major warning signs of diabetes that all parents should be on high alert for in their child and if any of these symptoms become apparent, seek medical attention immediately. Common symptoms include, but are not limited to:
- Increased thirst
- Increased hunger (especially after eating)
- Dry mouth
- Frequent urination or urine infections
- Unexplained weight loss (even though you are eating and feel hungry)
- Fatigue (weak, tired feeling)
- Blurred vision
Who is At Risk for Diabetes?
Both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes have their own risk factors associated with diabetes, and while some are simply based on an individual’s biological makeup, others relate to lifestyle factors.
Type 1 Diabetes
This type usually starts in childhood and will be present for your entire lifetime. The main factors associated with this type of diabetes are:
- Family History: If you have relatives with Type 1 diabetes, chances are strong you’ll get it, too. There is a 1 in 7 if one of your parents was diagnosed before the age of 50. Anyone who has a mother, father, sister, or brother with Type 1 diabetes should get checked.
- Diseases of the Pancreas: Pancreatitis, gallstones and pancreatic cancer can slow its ability to make insulin.
- Infection or Illness: Some infections and illnesses, although rare, can damage your pancreas.
Type 2 Diabetes
If you have Type 2 diabetes, your body can’t use the insulin it makes. This is called insulin resistance. Type 2 usually affects adults, but it can begin at any time in your life. The main factors associated with this type are:
- Obesity or Being Overweight: Research shows this is a top reason for Type 2 diabetes. Because of the rise in obesity among U.S. children, this type is affecting more teenagers than ever before. If you are obese, you are also at a high risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, such as high blood pressure.
- Impaired Glucose Tolerance: Prediabetes is a milder form of this condition. It can be diagnosed with a simple blood test. If you have it, there’s a strong chance you’ll get Type 2 diabetes.
- Insulin Resistance: Type 2 diabetes often starts with cells that are resistant to insulin. That means your pancreas has to work harder to make enough insulin to meet your body’s needs.
- Ethnic Background: Diabetes is seen more often in Hispanic/Latino Americans, African-Americans, Native Americans, Asian-Americans, Pacific Islanders, and Alaska natives.
- Age: If you’re over 45 and overweight or if you have symptoms of diabetes, talk to your doctor about a simple screening test.
How is Diabetes Diagnosed?
How Can You Reduce Your Risk?
Here are some of the best practices and preventative measures you can follow to limit your child’s risk of developing diabetes at some point in their lifetime.
- Weight Loss: Since carrying excess weight is a significant risk factor in the development of Type 2 (and gestational diabetes for pregnant women), losing weight can help prevent the onset of diabetes. It has been proven that for most adults, losing between five and seven percent of your body’s current weight can dramatically lower your risk of Type 2 diabetes.
- Physical Activity: Staying active for at least half an hour, five days per week, greatly reduces the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. Exercise is also good for weight loss.
- Healthy Eating: Eating foods and drinking liquids that are low in calories, fat, and sugar can help prevent Type 2 diabetes, and contributes toward maintaining a healthy weight.
- Medication: Additionally, a doctor may prescribe an SGLT2 inhibitor to be combined with insulin treatment and/or healthy lifestyle choices. These drugs can reduce blood sugar by blocking glucose from being reabsorbed into the blood. The effectiveness of the drug comes at a price, however, as the side effects can be just as bad as the symptoms it is intended to treat.
Diabetes is one of the fastest-growing disorders in the United States and around the world. Obesity has become an epidemic, and not only can a poor diet and lack of exercise lead to diabetes, but it can also lead to many other serious health conditions such as heart disease or stroke. Having regular check-ups with your physician and maintaining a healthy lifestyle within your family are the best methods of combating diabetes and ensuring your child’s long-term health.