Although type 1 diabetes was once a death sentence, research has come a long way in creating new treatments and ways to manage the disease. The best way for you to help your child is to get him on a regimen that includes the proper medication, a heart-healthy diet, regular visits to the doctor and plenty of physical activity to ensure that he is able to lead a normal life.
Function of Diabetes
Carbohydrates provide your body with glucose. The pancreas responds to the glucose by secreting insulin, a hormone that allows the body’s cells and organs to use the glucose as energy. In a person with diabetes, either his pancreas is unable to generate insulin, known as type 1 diabetes, or is unable to use it efficiently, known as type 2 diabetes. Both types result in higher-than-normal levels of blood glucose, a condition called hyperglycemia. If not controlled properly, hyperglycemia can cause a number of long-term illnesses including kidney and heart disease, blindness and neuropathy.
Causes of Diabetes in Children
Although researchers do not know the exact causes of diabetes, they believe that genetics and other environmental factors play a role. The medical community has identified certain risk factors for type 2 diabetes, including obesity, an inactive lifestyle and an African-American, Mexican-American or Pacific Island heritage. Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in children and adolescents, while the incidence of type 2 diabetes in young children becoming more prevalent each year. Type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented and no cure exists, but type 2 diabetes in children is preventable.
Management Through Medication
Children with type 1 diabetes need to take daily injections of insulin or wear an insulin pump to take over where the pancreas left off. To determine the proper dosage, they must use a glucose meter to test their blood glucose levels several times throughout the day. Accu-Chek Connect system from Roche Diabetes Care includes the Accu-Chek Aviva Connect meter, an app and an online portal, that lets parents check their child’s glucose levels anytime and anywhere. Blood glucose results are wirelessly sent from the meter to the app and can also be sent directly to parents via auto-generated texts. You can hear the stories of families living with Type 1 diabetes via a video series found here. Some children with type 2 diabetes take oral medications that help their bodies utilize insulin more effectively, but many can manage the disease through simple lifestyle changes.
Benefits of Meal Planning
Diabetes predisposes your child to cardiovascular disease, so a heart-healthy diet is critical in the management of the condition. You can use one of several meal-planning techniques to ensure that your child avoids long-term complications of the disease and consumes the proper types and amounts of carbohydrates to keep her blood glucose levels stable. If your child is overweight, consult your doctor of nutritionist to come up with a healthy weight-loss plan that can help to reduce the symptoms of diabetes.
Effects of Physical Activity
If your child is not engaged in sports or other physical activity, now is the time to start. Exercise helps the body to use insulin more efficiently and may even be able to eliminate some of the symptoms of type 2 diabetes. The American Diabetes Association recommends 60 minutes of physical activity at least five days per week.