How to prevent Diabetes in Children?
Nowadays, we can see an increase in the rate of diabetes among kids. Cheeny Kum, a diabetic care centre helps us understand symptoms of diabetes among kids and measures to take to prevent it.
Why are more and more children getting diagnosed with diabetes?
There are two types of diabetes seen in children-type 1 and type 2 Diabetes.
Type 1 is an auto immune disease where the insulin producing cells in the pancreas are destroyed and these children need insulin lifelong for survival.
Type 2 diabetes mostly affects adults and is caused due to stress, obesity due to faulty lifestyle and hereditary factors. What is worrying is the increase in incidence of Type 2 diabetes amongst children and adolescents. What once affected people in their fifties is now diagnosed in children aged between 6 and 18. This increase is mainly seen due a high-on-junk and low-on-exercise lifestyle of children today.
Today's children prefer slouching in front of their TV/computer screens and munching on a packet of chips rather than involving themselves in any outdoor activities. Healthy home food has been replaced by high fat junk food like pizza, burgers and pastries/doughnuts and the playgrounds are replaced by video games and computers. Moreover academic pressure has increased allowing very little time for the children to play. It is important to note that a child is at risk of Type 2 Diabetes if she/he is overweight, physically inactive, plays/watches more than 4 hours of video games/TV per day or has a family history of diabetes.
2. What are the symptoms to watch out for?
Keep an eye out for the following warning signs of diabetes like increased thirst, increased hunger, frequent or night time urination, blurry vision, unusual fatigue, and dark skin especially around the neck or armpit, weight loss or deterioration at school which may be misdiagnosed as an emotional problem.
3. What are the measures to take to control it?
The responsibility to stem the tide of obesity leading to Type 2 Diabetes in children lies in the hands of parents and teachers. Parents must encourage active play, physical activity and healthy eating habits in their children. They need to change their own eating habits in order to promote healthy eating at home. They must set rules for what is eaten in the house and when. It is preferable to give homemade healthy snacks/meals in the tiffin box and pocket money should be restricted.
There must be a time limit for television and video games; less than one hour per day with more time for play. Teachers must educate the students about healthy eating habits and encourage then to choose healthy food. Canteen should stock only healthy food options. Schools must encourage students to adapt to healthy eating habits by holding debates/discussions on healthy food habits and their benefits. Schools must take initiatives to organize campaigns like "Healthy eating week" which can spread the message among all students. Schools should have an hour of physical activity made compulsory for all students.
4. Any tips to avoid the same?
- Cultivate taste buds and eating habits as early as possible
- Offer a variety of foods including veggies as first course when the child is hungrier
- Be a good role model .You can’t expect your children to have good eating habits if you don't maintain them yourselves
- Don't cook separately for the kids, offer the same meals to the entire family
- Make changes- slowly-pick one habit you want to change every month. eg. Instead of a desert serve a fruit.
- Make sure your children eat breakfast comprising of wholegrain cereal, fresh fruit and milk instead of fried stuff.
- Control portion size, for eg. Serve ice-cream in small bowls and not cereal bowls.
- Have set-meal times. This limits snacking and eating alone.
- Increase the protein intake by incorporating cottage cheese, lentils, nuts, milk in the meals
- Use tricks to make healthy food more attractive to children- eg shapes and colours, add vegetables to parathas, soups, dosas, poha, upma and idlis.
- Encourage the child to take up one sport activity.