Heavy teens struggle to keep their diabetes in check

Flickr CC/Gaulsstin

Flickr CC/Gaulsstin

More than 30 percent of children and teens in Ohio are overweight or obese and at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes, according to the Ohio Department of Health.

This can only mean trouble for teens, who in particular struggle to manage their diabetes.

“Every teenager as they go through adolescence becomes more insulin resistant,” said Dr. Cydney Fenton, director for Akron Children’s Center for Diabetes and Endocrinology. “That’s a normal physiologic pattern that happens to every child, whether you have diabetes or not. Then, if you are obese, you’re even more insulin resistant.”

Throw on top of that the need for a teen’s independence. They may not be as precise in monitoring their food intake, taking their insulin the way they’re supposed to, or exercising on a regular basis.

Though Akron Children’s offers several ways to help teens keep their diabetes in check through programs such as the Future Fitness Clinic  and Healthy Weight Clinic , the most important thing to do is prevent type 2 diabetes in the first place.

Dr. Cydney Fenton

Dr. Cydney Fenton

Type 2 diabetes is a much more aggressive and dangerous disease in adolescents than adults, said Dr. Fenton.

The longer blood sugar runs rampant, the greater the risk teens can suffer from complications, such as vision loss, nerve damage, kidney failure, limb amputation, and even heart attacks and strokes.

“Children we diagnose with type 2 diabetes in adolescence probably between one-quarter and one-third are going to have severe renal complications by their mid-20s and up to 30 percent of them will die before the age of 50,” Dr. Fenton said. “The affect it has on the body is very different.”

Leading by example, parents can play a huge role in diabetes prevention. They can keep the household a “safe zone,” Dr. Fenton said, by stocking the fridge and pantry full of healthy options and encouraging an active lifestyle.

She also advises parents to take their children to the pediatrician on a regular basis to monitor normal growth and development. That way, if a negative trend develops, parents can catch it early and make lifestyle changes to reverse it.

“If you’re overweight and you have pre-diabetes, if you lose 10 percent of your body weight, your risk of developing full-blown type 2 diabetes drops by 70 percent,” said Dr. Fenton. “That’s huge! There’s no medication on the market that even comes close to doing that. The key is to catch this early and prevent it.”

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