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Take steps now to prevent diabetes in your child

About 17 percent of children and teens are overweight—double from 20 years ago. This has led to a surge in the number of children with type 2 diabetes, the form more commonly found in overweight adults over age 40.

In response to this alarming statistic, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a stern warning for the nation’s parents: One in three American children born in 2000 will develop diabetes if we don’t take steps now to address their fatty diets and poor fitness habits.

Stop diabetes before it starts

The first step you need to take is to determine whether your child is at risk for diabetes. Fortunately, by identifying children at high risk and taking early action, diabetes can be largely prevented. Another reason for concern: The longer a person has diabetes, the greater the chance for complications, such as blindness, kidney failure, leg and foot amputations, stroke and heart disease, so children with diabetes are particularly threatened.

Targeting high-risk kids

As many as 80 percent of children and teens are overweight at the time of a diabetes diagnosis. And 25 percent of obese children already suffer impaired glucose tolerance, a condition that often precedes the development of type 2 diabetes. Talk to your family doctor about diabetes testing if your child is overweight or nearly so and has any of these risk factors:

  • a family history of type 2 diabetes, particularly among first- or second-degree relatives
  • being of African-American, Hispanic/Latino, Native American or Asian/Pacific Islander descent
  • signs of insulin resistance or conditions associated with insulin resistance such as high blood pressure, poor cholesterol and triglyceride levels and acanthosis nigricans, a condition where the skin around the neck or in the armpits appears dark, thick and velvety

What you can do

  • Eat at home. Avoid super-sized fast-food meals on the run. Make the time to cook and eat healthy family fare.
  • Limit screen time. The sedentary nature of modern playtime—TV, video games and using the computer—has contributed to overweight kids.
  • Exercise together. Make physical activity a group event. Go on a family hike or bike ride. Join a gym together or enter family fun walks.
  • Don’t use food, sweets or candy as rewards or gifts. Try activity-minded presents such as jump ropes, kites, pogo sticks or scooters.