Children and teens need to watch what they eat for a lot of reasons. One of them is that a healthy diet can help prevent diabetes, a dangerous disease that increases your risk of heart disease and stroke.Your digestive system breaks down foods and beverages that contain carbohydrates — like grains, fruits and vegetables — down into sugar. Certain foods, like whole grains, many fruits and vegetables and other high-fiber foods, take longer to digest. This helps keep the amount of sugar in your blood from going too high. But refined grains, potatoes and foods high in added sugar are digested fast and are quickly delivered into the bloodstream as sugar. If your blood sugar goes high too often, it can overwork your body’s ability to keep your blood sugar in healthy ranges, and you’re more likely to develop diabetes.
What is diabetes?In diabetes, the body has problems either using or making a hormone called insulin. Insulin is important because it helps your body turn sugar and other food into energy. When the body doesn’t have enough insulin, it causes too much sugar to build up in your blood, which can cause damage to your heart and other parts of your body.
There are two main types of diabetes: Type 1 and Type 2.
- Type 1 diabetes means the body does not make enough insulin to function properly. It is the type of diabetes that occurs mostly in very young people and comes on very suddenly.
- Type 2 diabetes often develops in a person over time because of bad habits. Being overweight and not getting enough regular physical activity are two bad habits that can lead to developing diabetes. Teenagers are now starting to develop type 2 diabetes. Once a person has type 2 diabetes, they are at risk for problems with almost every part of their body if they don’t take good care of themselves.
Some of the problems they can develop are:
- Heart attack
- Kidney damage
- Foot damage, even amputation
- High blood pressure
- Hearing problems
- Eye damage and blindness
Diabetes warning signs:
- Always thirsty
- Blurry vision
- Always tired
- Going to the bathroom frequently
- Always hungry
- Losing weight quickly
Measure your blood sugarTo measure your blood sugar, you need to get help from your family doctor or health care professional. If your healthcare provider thinks you should have your blood sugar tested, he or she may recommend that you avoid eating or drinking anything but water for several hours before the test. As when measuring your cholesterol, you will need to have a small amount of blood collected in a tube so your doctor can measure how much glucose is circulating in it.
Diabetes causes plaque to grow in your arteries at a faster rate, increasing your risk of heart disease and stroke. Even if you don’t have diabetes, you need to know your blood sugar level because controlling your blood sugar is an important part of stopping heart disease before it starts.
Here are some tips and questions for you to think about blood glucose, type 2 diabetes and your healthy heart:
- Do you have any friends with diabetes? How has this changed their lifestyles?
- What are three reasons to follow a heart-healthy diet and avoid diabetes?
Last reviewed 8/2014