According to the Diabetes Association, “the prevalence of both Type 1 and Type 2 increased among young people substantially over the past decade.” Their research shows that Type 1 Diabetes has been growing in youth at a rate of approximately 3 percent every year. They also say that this is true of Type 2 Diabetes, which has traditionally been seen mainly in adults, and is even known as “Adult Onset Diabetes.” Now that it’s hitting children, though, it’s created a new problem.
Our bodies need glucose. Glucose is a sugar derived from food that our bodies use as fuel. When someone has diabetes, something is wrong with their ability to turn glucose into fuel. In a healthy functioning body, there is a process that makes this happen. You eat, your blood gets glucose from the food, your pancreas produces the hormone insulin, the insulin prepares and guides the glucose into the necessary cells of your body. A body with diabetes isn’t able to do one or more of those steps. Check out this well-made and simple video to further explain diabetes.
In Type 1 diabetes, the pancreas simply can’t make insulin. Doctors don’t yet completely understand why, but for some reason the body’s immune system has attacked the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. The body is able to absorb the glucose found in food, but there isn’t any insulin to help that glucose get to the cells that need it. Also, since this has to do with the development of the organs, Type 1 diabetes is often found in young children, and has even historically been referred to as “juvenile diabetes.”
Type 2 diabetes is slightly different than Type 1. Where Type 1 means the body cannot produce insulin, Type 2 diabetes means that the body cannot properly use the insulin it produces. This can happen at any point in life, and has typically been seen in the adult stage of life. However, there has been a disturbing trend lately.
And not in the way we’d like. Each year just under 2 million people over the age of 20 are diagnosed with diabetes. Approximately 25 million people in the United States, both children and adults, have diabetes. Of those, just over 200,000 are under the age of 20. That may not sound like much, but doctors would disagree. Along with this growth of diabetes in youth, we’ve also seen a growth in obesity. Both are life threatening to our children, and we have to do something to help.
Begin healthy diets at a younger age. It’s tempting to take the easy route and stop by the closest fast-food joint on the way home. We go from one thing to the next, and stopping for a healthy meal doesn’t always fit into our schedule. It’s hard to see now, but taking the extra time, effort and money to teach our kids to live healthy, active lifestyles will pay dividends in the future. When their medical bills are lower, their ability to stay awake and focused in school is higher, and they’re able to pass on the good habits to their own children, you’ll remember the time you took to teach them, and you’ll remember that it was worth it. And they might even thank you.