The number of teenagers being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes is rising. About 3,700 teens are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes every year. There was a time when only older people got type 2 diabetes. This used to be called ‘maturity onset diabetes’.
However, with changes in our lifestyle, including the rising obesity epidemic, type 2 diabetes is now being diagnosed at much younger ages.
Here are some of the reasons for the increase in type 2 diabetes in our teenage children
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Decreased levels of physical activity
Let’s face it, unless a teenager is actively involved in sports, they are less likely to be physically active. These days teenagers live in a more technology-oriented world, social media, video games etc. that tends to lead to a more sedentary lifestyle. Teens should be encouraged to increase physical activity into their lives.
- Increased access to fast foods
With the fast paced lives that we live in the 21st century it is not unusual for a teenager to eat more fast foods. Fast foods are not very nutritious and so could contribute to increase body weight.
- Distorted body image
Some ethnicities, such as African Americans, Native Americans and Latinos may buy into the thought that ‘thick is it’, or that they are just a little ‘overweight’. This distortion of self-image contributes to a rise in obesity and also an increase in type 2 diabetes.
- Genetic Tendencies
If the parents of a teenager are obese, the chance of their children being obese is high. Obesity is related to behavior patterns. If both parents are obese, then the chances of an obese child are 66%. The risk is 50% if one parent is obese.
- Lack of nutrition awareness
A lot of people do not know a lot about what makes a healthy plate. We need to become more aware of the choices we make when it comes to what we eat.
- Lack of recreational space and food islands in inner cities
The lack of easy access to supermarkets that stock fresh produce in inner cities is an ongoing problem. This needs to be addressed by our policy makers if we are truly serious about making a dent in diseases caused by lifestyle choices such as type 2 diabetes. In addition, there is also shortage of adequate recreational space in inner city neighborhoods. This combined with the fear of violence associated with the inner city are also factors that contribute to the rise in obesity.
Here are some simple small steps that we can take to reduce teenage diabetes
- Become a more active as a family and a community
GET MOVING and encourage your teen to get moving also! There is no short cut to increasing the level of daily physical activity. Keep it simple. Get a fitness tracker such as a fitbit® for family members. Form a team. Have each family member make it a goal to increase the number of steps they walk to 10,000 steps every day. Use social media such as twitter or Facebook to gain support from friends. More importantly make it FUN! Set up healthy competition with siblings. Even involve the dog ☺.
- Pay attention to nutrition labels
Thanks to recent revisions by the US Dept. of Agriculture, food labels are becoming a lot easier to decipher. Make it a habit to read food labels and learn about the ingredients in your food. I use a rule of thumb that is pretty straightforward- if the label reads like something from my medical school biochemistry class then perhaps it’s not as healthy as it looks. ☺
- Create a culture of wellness
As women, we have traditionally been the custodians of the health of our households. I believe that knowledge is the first step to personal empowerment. By becoming empowered, we can make decisions that will impact not only our personal health, but also that of our families. We need to get the right information. Information that is easy to understand. Without access to the right kind of information, people cannot make good lifestyle choices. That is the mission of this website, to provide information in an easy to understand format so that we can all collectively get into action to stave off this epidemic of diabetes and obesity.
We need to arm ourselves with this knowledge so that we can transmit this information in the healthy lifestyle choices that we make for our children.
We need to rid ourselves of the belief that just because we may have a family history of obesity, diabetes or some other chronic illness, that this is the norm and to be expected and we cannot do anything about it for our children or ourselves.
Collectively as women, mothers, aunts and matriarchs- we need to take personal responsibility for creating a culture of wellness in our families, communities and the world at large.
The time to act is NOW!
To your Health and Wellbeing,