When I hear about today’s health statistics, I can’t do anything but shake my head. When I hear about the stats related to our nation’s children, my heart sinks to the pit of my stomach. It used to be that type 2 diabetes was an adult disease. In fact, if referred to by its former alias, you would know it as “adult-onset diabetes.” But not any longer.
A study, published May 15th in the Journal of Pediatrics, analyzes data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), an ongoing survey of our nation’s public. Researchers found that nearly one in four American adolescents have diabetes or pre-diabetes; that’s a prevalence of 23% as of 2008, the most recent year the data has been analyzed. A decade ago, only one child in ten had diabetes or pre-diabetes.
Lead author of the analysis, Dr. Ashleigh May, noted that normal weight kids are facing a substantial burden of cardiovascular risk factors too, meaning that it’s not jut the overweight kids we should be worried about. Something besides weight is impacting our children’s health. Is it the types of foods we’re eating? Sedentary lifestyles? These are certainly great starting points for further evaluation.
I think most of us are aware there is a problem. But are we aware of the severity? If we continue to head down this path, what does this mean for our children’s future? According to the new HBO documentary, the Weight of the Nation, this could be the first generation to live shorter life spans than their parents. The prevalence of elevated blood sugars among Americans continues to rise. Diabetes, especially, is a very serious disease. And death could be hailed as less severe compared to some of the other complications associated with uncontrolled blood sugars: blindness, kidney disease, amputations, and heart attack. We have to start making the connection between the choices and actions we make daily and our future health. Our children will be facing much tougher lives if we don’t start to make changes now.
So let’s focus our attention on a solution. It starts with each one of us – at home. Do a self-evaluation or talk with your family. What are some changes that you can make to improve your health? Here are some suggestions for starters:
Clean out the pantry. Make sure your kitchen is stocked with at least 75% healthy food. Reserve 25% (or less) of the space for items that are less healthy.
How often do you eat out? Work on reducing meals that are not prepared at home.
Do you exercise regularly? Look at your schedule at the beginning of each week and decide when you plan to exercise.
Limit “screen time.” That includes time spent in front of the television, video games and the computer.
What are your next action steps? Do you need a new cookbook? Do you need to take a cooking class? Meet with a Registered Dietitian for nutrition counseling and a more specific plan? Don’t hesitate to reach out for support.
Elizabeth Patton MS, RD, LD, CDE is the chief blogger behind Good Food Tastes Good, a blog where Liz shares her passion for healthy eating and expertise on the matter regularly. Follow Good Food Tastes Good on Facebook.