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Managing Type 2 Diabetes in Kids

How To Help Your Child Manage Type 2 Diabetes

Although type 2 diabetes is usually associated with adults, kids are not immune. Managing the disease cannot be ignored because children confront the same dangerous health consequences as grownups.

"Insulin keeps the body in balance by delivering glucose to every cell, including those in the muscles and liver," says Dr. Siripoom McKay, director of the type 2 diabetes program at Texas Children's Hospital in Houston, Texas. "Once the body resists insulin, glucose does not go inside of the cells, which results in a high concentration of glucose in the bloodstream."

The Consequences of Mismanagement
Failure to manage type 2 diabetes can result in long-term complications such as blindness, kidney failure and heart attack. The buildup of plaque in the arteries can sometimes require amputation of limbs.

"Type 2 diabetes is not a condition that children outgrow; it is lifelong and must be managed," says Dr. McKay, who also is an assistant professor of pediatrics in the section of endocrine and metabolism at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. "In order to normalize the glucose level, children may take pills and/or injections prescribed by a doctor; however, medicine alone usually is not sufficient to manage the disease."

Risk Factors

Several factors can increase the risk of diabetes: mainly family history of diabetes, belonging to an ethnic group that has a high risk of diabetes, obesity and a sedentary lifestyle, says Dr. McKay.

"While no one can change their genetics, lifestyle choices can be modified," says Dr. McKay. "We are seeing more kids with type 2 diabetes because of the rise in obesity and inactivity. It's very difficult to separate the two."

Weight reduction begins by altering eating habits and consuming a low-saturated fat, low-cholesterol diet with an emphasis on portion control. "Of course, everyone should strive for a normal weight and eat nutritiously, but it's crucial for a person with type 2 diabetes," Dr. McKay says. "Monitoring the intake of fat is extremely important."

To speed the metabolism, increasing physical activity and decreasing sedentary pastimes are essential, Dr. McKay says. "Limit time sitting in front of the television and playing video games," Dr. McKay says. "Encourage kids to take part in other activities instead of being in situations that can lead to eating."

Type 2 Diabetes Fact Sheet

  • The most common form of diabetes, type 2 diabetes makes an individual resistant to insulin. Insulin keeps the body in balance by delivering glucose to every cell. Once the body resists insulin, glucose does not go inside of the cells, which results in a high concentration of glucose in the bloodstream.
  • Failure to manage type 2 diabetes can result in long-term complications such as blindness, kidney failure, heart attack and amputation of limbs due to artherosclerosis.
  • Type 2 diabetes is not a condition that children outgrow. It is a lifelong condition and must be managed. Several factors predispose one to diabetes: mainly family history of diabetes, belonging to an ethnic group with a risk for diabetes and obesity and/or sedentary lifestyle.
  • Children may take pills and/or injections prescribed by a doctor; however, medicine alone is usually not sufficient to manage the disease.
  • Lifestyle choices should be modified through weight reduction and a low-saturated fat, low-cholesterol diet with an emphasis on portion control.
  • Increasing physical activity and decreasing sedentary pastimes are recommended to improve insulin resistance.

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