Sugar is fast passing fat as the number one enemy in the United States and among developed countries. While extreme, the comparison that some people make of the white granulated carbohydrate to cocaine is really not that much of a stretch. The worst part about it is that the danger of this drug is so well hidden. The aisles upon aisles of sugar coated cereals with bright colors and toys that can only be beckoning to the pre-pubescent child. These cloaked confections are consumed too fast for the body to process, and the body responds by decreasing it’s response to insulin, the main peptide hormone responsible for regulating its use. In a word, this is pre-diabetes. Once considered by doctors to be primarily an adult disease, it is now an all too real problem facing our children.
The Top Five Biggest Problems in Children with Pre-Diabetes
1. Decreased lifespan. A child with pre-diabetes is at significantly increased risk for chronic heart disease, stroke, sleep apnea, cancer, and infections – as early as the age of 30-35. No matter how you look at this, it’s devastating.
2. Cost of healthcare will go up for these children. For some cases, they may get rejected in early adulthood for certain cheaper health insurance plans, and can also be rejected by life insurance carriers. Employers are attempting to meet the demands of higher cost premiums for their employees, and often the solution to rising costs is cutting better and more comprehensive plans.
3. The quality of life for a child with a chronic disease goes down. Physicians often speak in terms of mortality (death), but often the real enemy to a good quality life is morbidity from chronic disease. Children with pre-diabetes who go on to develop full blown disease will have to contend with possible amputations, frequent hospitalizations for common infections, and increased cancer prevalence and treatment. Increased damage to their body can cause strokes, which can take away the ability to walk, talk, see, and live independently.
4. Depression accompanies chronic disease. Most children who are already struggling with insulin resistance are obese, and with obesity and pre-diabetes comes a higher risk of emotional problems, like depression. Complications from the disease, such as chronic pain from erosion of joints and neuropathy, can amplify the situation.
5. The psychosocial impact. The reality is that this problem doesn’t just stop with the child; it involves the whole family and society as a whole. Divorce, stress, and abuse all have a higher prevalence in families who struggle with chronic disease and children with special needs. Family dynamics change with chronic disease – little Billy may not be able to sign up for football at school, he may not be able to sleep over at his friend’s house without explicit instructions regarding his diet, and he also may be frequently absent from school due to health related concerns.
The Top Five Solutions
1. Education. Seek out knowledge about what is going into the mouths of your children. A lot of the time, it may surprise you. Several restaurant chains and supermarkets now provide the nutritional content of their food online, making it easier to arm yourself with this information.
2. Seek help. Lack of education is probably the biggest deterrent to progress, but the education should be done properly under the certified care of a physician or dietician.
3. Fix the problem as a whole; families that heal together usually stay together. This means that approaching the problem will require everybody in the home to improve their diet and healthy habits. The best tool that parents have is to lead by example.
4. Parents should take charge. The reality is that the number one solution starts with the parents. Children do not have full time jobs to support themselves, so they do not have the expendable income to control their own diet. If they do not buy unhealthy food, it will not be present at the home. And yes, this may mean crying fits, temper tantrums, and conflict. But stay firm.
5. Have a plan. At a lot of times, clear goals need to be established in order to find the path back to health. The right strategy laid out ahead of time will increase your chances of success. Remember – it is a journey, not a race, and will take a lot of patience.