Diabetes (say: dye-uh-BEE-tees) is a health problem that affects kids of all ages, but you can't catch it like a cold. In some cases, diabetes can be prevented. How? Let's find out.
Diabetes is a disease that affects how the body uses glucose (say: GLOO-kose), a sugar that is the body's main source of fuel. Like a cell phone needs a battery, your body needs glucose to keep running.
Here's how it should work:
The pancreas is a long, flat gland in your belly that helps your body digest food. It also makes insulin. Insulin is kind of like a key that opens the doors to the cells of the body. It lets the glucose in. Then the glucose can move out of the blood and into the cells.
But if someone has diabetes, the body either can't make insulin (this is called type 1 diabetes) or the insulin doesn't work in the body like it should (this is called type 2 diabetes). The glucose can't get into the cells normally, so the blood sugar level gets too high. Lots of sugar in the blood makes people sick if they don't get treatment.
Type 1 diabetes can't be prevented. Doctors can't even tell who will get it and who won't.
No one knows for sure why some kids get type 1 diabetes, but scientists think it has something to do with genes. Genes are like instructions for how the body should look and work that are passed on by parents to their kids. But just getting the genes for diabetes isn't usually enough. Most of the time, something else has to happen to the person — like getting an infection with a virus — for him or her to get type 1 diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes isn't contagious, so you can't catch it from another person or pass it along to your friends. And stuff like eating too much sugar doesn't cause type 1 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes is different. Sometimes, it can be prevented. In type 2 diabetes, the pancreas can still make insulin, but the body doesn't respond to it in the right way.
Most people who have type 2 diabetes are overweight. In the past, mainly overweight adults got type 2 diabetes. Today, more kids have type 2 diabetes, probably because more kids are overweight.
How can you help prevent type 2 diabetes? Getting to a healthy weight is one way. That's because a lot of extra weight makes it harder for the body to use insulin properly. Making healthy food choices and getting enough exercise are other good steps to take to help prevent diabetes.
If you want to help prevent type 2 diabetes — or just be healthier in lots of other ways — take these steps:
Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: August 2013
|American Diabetes Association (ADA) The ADA website includes news, information, tips, and recipes for people with diabetes.|
|Children With Diabetes This website offers true stories about kids and teens who have diabetes.|
|Joslin Diabetes Center The website of this Boston-based center has information about how to monitor blood sugar and manage diabetes.|
|Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International (JDRF) JDRF's mission is to find a cure for diabetes and its complications through the support of research.|
|Diabetes: What's True and False? There's a lot of info and advice out there about diabetes, but some is wrong or bad. Here's what's true - and what's false.|
|Carbohydrates and Diabetes If you have diabetes, you might think you shouldn't eat carbohydrates (carbs) at all. But all kids, including kids with diabetes, can and should eat carbs as part of a healthy diet.|
|Diabetes Center Diabetes means a problem with insulin, an important hormone in the body. Find out how children with diabetes can stay healthy and do the normal stuff kids like to do.|
|Diabetes Control: Why It's Important Keeping blood sugar levels under control can help keep you healthy and prevent health problems from happening down the road. Find out more.|
|Weight and Diabetes Being at a healthy weight is a good idea for everyone, but it's even more important for kids with diabetes.|
|Type 2 Diabetes: What Is It? Diabetes is a disease that affects how the body uses glucose, a sugar that is the body's main source of fuel. Find out more about a kind of diabetes called type 2 diabetes in this article for kids.|
|Type 1 Diabetes: What Is It? Thousands of kids all over the world have type 1 diabetes, a disease that affects how the body uses glucose.|
|Sports, Exercise, and Diabetes Like anyone else, kids with diabetes can enjoy sports. Whether you want to go for the gold or just go hiking in your hometown, your diabetes won't hold you back.|
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