It’s a question no parent wants to ask. But as with so many things in life, knowledge really is power. We’ve outlined all you need to know about the risk factors for Type 2 diabetes so you know what to look for.
The difference between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes
First of all, it’s important to understand the difference between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes used to be called ‘juvenile diabetes’ because it was most often diagnosed in children. It’s an auto-immune condition, unrelated to lifestyle or diet. If your child has Type 1 diabetes, you’ll know very quickly because they will get very sick. They’ll lose weight, eat a lot, constantly be thirsty and need to pee a lot – often at night. They’ll also be exhausted.
Type 2 diabetes, on the other hand, develops slowly. Until recently, it was mostly seen in older people – one of the risk factors is being over 45 years old. But it is being diagnosed in children more and more. This is largely because our kids aren’t as active as they used to be – one of the main risk factors is a lack of physical activity. Another is being overweight or obese, particularly around the tummy area, and having a family history of diabetes.
What to do if your family is at risk for developing Type 2 diabetes
If this is ringing a bell, there are a few simple things you can do. The easiest way to remember them is to think EEL:
- Eat healthy
- Lose weight if necessary
Eating healthy means cutting out junk food, sweets and treats, juice and fizzy drinks. Also cut out refined carbs, which means white bread, white rice, pasta – all the white foods. Eat lots of green vegetables (half a plate with each meal), good quality protein and some wholegrain carbs. It might feel like a big adjustment, but your whole family will feel better if you can start eating healthier.
Exercise doesn’t have to mean joining a gym. It can be as simple as a 30-minute walk, most days of the week. Or some stretching or yoga at home, or a game of soccer with the neighbourhood kids. It’s so important for kids to be physically active.
Losing weight is important if your child is overweight or obese, but that doesn’t mean putting them on a diet. If they’re getting active and eating healthy, drinking lots of water and staying away from junk food, weight loss will be a natural result.
If you’re not sure whether or not you’re at risk of Type 2 diabetes, check out our fun 1-minute diabetes risk test on www.sweetlife.org.za. We also have all the information you need on how to reverse Type 2 diabetes, and advice and tips on how to manage diabetes if you’re living with it. The most important thing to remember is that you’re not alone in this! There is a whole community of Diabetic South Africans, all living our best lives.
Symptoms of Type 1 diabetes
- Very hungry
- Very thirsty
- Needing to pee a lot, especially at night
- Sudden weight loss
Risk factors for Type 2 diabetes
- 45 years old (or older) OR
- Overweight or obese AND
- Physically inactive (not much exercise)
- High blood pressure
- Family history of diabetes
- High cholesterol
- Heart disease history
- High-risk ethnic group (Asian Indian, Coloured)
- Diabetes during pregnancy or a baby over 4kg
- PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome)
If this sounds like you, it’s important to go for a diabetes screening. There are free screenings at Clicks Clinics and many independent pharmacies during November (National Diabetes Month).
Bridget McNulty is a Type 1 diabetic and the co-founder of Sweet Life Diabetes Community, SA’s largest online diabetes community. Find out more about how to live well with diabetes at www.sweetlife.org.za