How to keep your kids diabetes-free

By Ellen James Martin, Washington News Service

Special to The PREVIEW

More than 29 million Americans have diabetes — yet an estimated 8 million don’t know they have it. And the undiagnosed include a surprising number of children.

“An alarming number of kids under 18 have diabetes or prediabetes. But a lot of pediatricians aren’t checking for it,” said Dr. Sheri Colberg, a professor of exercise science at Old Dominion University in Virginia.

Colberg said it’s critically important that parents help their offspring avoid or manage diabetes — which can be especially harmful to young people if it’s not controlled because they suffer for the rest of their lives.

“When you get diabetes early, you have many more years to be exposed to its consequences,” said Colberg, author of “Diabetes-Free Kids.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Type 1 diabetes — which occurs when the body doesn’t make enough insulin — is diagnosed in more than 18,000 young people each year. Type 2 diabetes, which is diagnosed in more than 5,000 young people annually, occurs when the body can’t use insulin properly.

The increased onset of Type 2 diabetes in children has a lot to do with lifestyle factors, according to Jill Weisenberger, a diabetes expert and educator.

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