Joslin Diabetes Center experts answer commonly asked questions about diabetes monitoring, treatment, self-care, meal planning, and more.
Topic: Weight Control
Question: Type 2 diabetes runs in my family. I have it, and I worry that my 12-year-old son will get it, too. He's overweight and pretty inactive. Is there anything we can do to help him avoid getting it?
Answer: Indeed, diabetes can run in families, which means your son does have a higher risk of getting diabetes at some point later in life. The good news is that there are steps your child can take to reduce those risks, such as increasing physical activity and losing a moderate amount of weight.
Since you say your son is overweight and inactive, the first step to help prevent type 2 diabetes is to encourage him to be more physically active. As a parent, you can help make physical activity a family affair and encourage everyone to be in on it. Going bowling together, skating, swimming, bicycling, walking the dog together, and so on-all are great ways to help everyone stay active and fit, and burn calories. Remind him to find ways to put more steps in his day: skip the elevator at school or the escalator at the mall and take the stairs, for example. Let him know that aiming for at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day is his target. School and after-school sports programs can help-track and field, swimming and tennis teams, for example.
If your son spends too much free time on sedentary activities-TV watching and computer games, perhaps-discuss ways that he can "earn" TV time. Maybe he can earn 15 to 30 minutes of television for every 30 minutes of activity.
As for his diet, think about the foods you offer your family. Be sure to provide plenty of fruits and vegetables, and low-calorie snacks and beverages. Remember that a 12-year-old may be about to launch into a period of rapid growth, so you might not need to restrict his calories if he's physically active. However, try to limit the amount of junk or empty-calorie foods, and make sure that the foods that are around are nutritious, healthy choices. Encourage "adventurous" eating-experimenting with new healthy dishes that provide the nutrients your entire family needs. And get him involved in meal preparation. When children and teens participate, they just may come up with great ideas based on your healthful ingredients.
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