Are My Kids at Risk of Type 2 Diabetes, Too?

Q: I was recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. How likely is it that my young daughter will develop type 2 diabetes, and how can I prevent it?

healthy eatingA: Your child has a one in seven chance at developing type 2 diabetes if you developed the condition before age 50 (the odds fall to one in 13 chance if you were diagnosed after age 50). If both parents have diabetes, the odds are closer to a one in two chance of developing the disease. However, just because the risk increases for your child with your diagnosis does not mean that your child is destined to develop diabetes.

While genetics do play a role in type 2 diabetes, there are many factors that lead to the development of this disease. Educating your daughter on the potential risk, as well as what she can do to protect herself against the development of diabetes, is key in fighting against this disease.

Explain to her that lifestyle factors, including what she eats and how often she's active, and play a much larger role. In addition, age plays a major role in the development of type 2 diabetes. The risk of developing this disease in childhood and adolescents, although on the rise, is low. However, the dietary and lifestyle behaviors developed throughout childhood can help to increase or decrease overall risk for type 2 diabetes as you age. Helping your children to eat a well balanced diet, stay physically active each day, and maintain a healthy weight will give them the best odds at avoiding a diagnosis of diabetes.

So how can you help your child to lead a healthy lifestyle without scaring them? Lead by example. To start, make sure that you have a good understanding of the role diet plays in managing type 2 diabetes. Work together with your healthcare team by seeking counsel from your physician, certified diabetes educator, dietitian, and fitness professionals experienced in diabetes. Learn the ins and outs of the healthiest diet for health by transitioning away from refined carbohydrates and choosing whole grains while slimming down your protein options by choosing lean animal proteins such as chicken breast or fish whenever possible. Start to transition to a diet rich in plant-based foods by adding in a serving or more of whole vegetables and fruits at each meal. The more you and transition away from processed foods and start selecting whole foods, the better you will be able to manage your blood sugar levels.

Displaying the lifestyle habits you want your children to replicate is the best way to lead them to making these beneficial choices on their own. Begin by making healthy eating a family effort. Allow your child to come food shopping with you and explain to them the best food options for health. When your child requests a less healthy choice at the store, explain why certain nutrients such as refined carbohydrates should be saved for special occasions and instead offer a comparable, yet healthier alternatives. Including your child in meal preparation can also help them to become more excited about eating the food that was just prepared. Even young children can be given small tasks such as mixing, pouring, or rolling ingredients in recipes. You can even set aside time each week as a family to research new recipes for healthy meals and snacks to try. The more involved your child feels, the more excited he or she will be to sample new and healthy options.

A lack of physical activity is also a major factor in the development of diabetes. Instilling the need to stay active daily with your child at a young age is key in making exercise a part of their day-to-day routine as they get older. Plan activities around exercise and make it a family affair. Instead of watching a movie together, go outside and play a game of catch or take a walk together. Try out new activities and sports as a group to show your children how fun being active can be. The more you act as a role model for a healthy lifestyle, the lower the odds your child has at developing diabetes.

Updated on: December 3, 2018