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South African children are at high risk of developing Diabetes and associated health problems.
Childhood Diabetes is a real threat, often overlooked until it’s too late.
South African children are at high risk of developing diabetes and associated health problems. It is often assumed that children’s bodies can cope with high amounts of sugar because if they’re active, they’ll burn it up. Consider this: using the wrong fuel in your car can cause a full on engine failure, so why feed our children the wrong fuel for their bodies? Your child is precious to you, and we understand that you would do anything to keep him/her healthy. That’s why we’ve included everything you need to know about childhood Diabetes in this article.
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a health condition. It prevents your body from processing sugar correctly. Insulin, a hormone produced by your pancreas, is a key player in your body’s ability to process glucose, or sugar. Chronic Diabetes can be diagnosed once your pancreas can no longer produce insulin, or your body becomes unresponsive to its existing insulin reserves. Elevated glucose levels in your blood can lead to alarming health complications, with potentially fatal outcomes. There are three different types of Diabetes:
- Type 1 Diabetes: Also known as Juvenile Diabetes, Type 1 Diabetes occurs when your body can no longer produce insulin. Being diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes will mean that you’ll need to inject yourself every day, and closely monitor your blood sugar (glucose) levels. Type 1 is often linked to an underlying health problem or disorder.
- Type 2 Diabetes: Often associated with obesity, Type 2 Diabetes occurs when your body’s ability to produce or process insulin, and therefore glucose, becomes impaired. Type 2 is often referred to as a lifestyle disease, as its development can, most often, be prevented through leading a healthy lifestyle.
- Gestational Diabetes: Gestational Diabetes can occur during pregnancy, but patients diagnosed with this do not continue living with Diabetes after giving birth. Gestational Diabetes occurs when a pregnant mother’s body fails to produce enough insulin, or process glucose correctly.
Diabetes in South African Children
Globally, 1 out of every 10 children is overweight or obese. In South Africa, however, 2 out of every 10 children can be categorised as overweight or obese. Being overweight as a child makes you more susceptible to being overweight as an adult. But that’s not the only problem: being overweight can lead to further health complications and, in particular, lead to Type 2 Diabetes. Childhood obesity actually quadruples the risk of Type 2 Diabetes, either during childhood or later on in life.
South Africa: The World’s Unhealthiest Nation
During May this year, the Indigo Wellness Index officially ranked South Africa as the world’s unhealthiest country. Ten metrics were assessed: life expectancy, blood pressure, blood glucose, obesity, depression, happiness, inactivity, government spending on healthcare, tobacco, and alcohol use. A health ratio was created, scoring 0 at the worst end and 1 scoring the best. With a score of only 0.28, the results speak volumes about the state of our nation’s health. As our rate of childhood obesity doubled over recent years, we need to be concerned about the health ramifications for our children.
Preventing Childhood Diabetes
Type 2 Diabetes is preventable and all forms of Diabetes are treatable.
- Actively educate your child about the importance of vitamins and minerals. Build a sense of curiosity and excitement about eating a well-balanced and nutritionally beneficial diet.
- Set rules and set an example when it comes to eating fresh fruit and vegetables. Remember children will imitate you before they follow your instructions because visual learning is easier for them to process, compared to verbal learning.
- Limit exposure and intake of fizzy, sugary drinks. Develop the habit of only drinking water with meals.
- Play. Children are inherently curious and willing to learn new things through having fun and playing. Pick up a ball, jump around, clap, dance, and engage with your child in these ways to get them excited about physical activity.
- Encourage a bedtime routine which involves brushing teeth and getting into bed to sleep on time.
Type 1 Diabetes in Children
A Type 1 Diabetes diagnosis for your child can be awful to confront, but it can be managed, just like KayaFM’s Pitso Molemane. Most youngsters are only diagnosed when adolescnet but it doesn’t rule out the danger of this condition in younger children. Type 1 Diabetes can be diagnosed if:
- There is a family history of Type 1 Diabetes.
- Genetic disorders or complications are common among family members.
- Children are exposed to certain viruses, which then lead to a diagnosis of Type 1 Diabetes.
Type 2 Diabetes in Children
A Type 2 Diabetes is mostly preventable and completely within our control. Your child is at risk if:
- There is a family history of Type 2 Diabetes.
- Your child’s mother had Gestational Diabetes during pregnancy.
- A low birth weight was recorded.
- He/She is currently overweight.
- There is too much time spent idle, and not being physically active.
Signs and Symptoms
While Diabetes may be different for everyone, there are some common signs and symptoms to look out for. If you are concerned about your child’s health, book an appointment to chat to your family doctor, paediatrician, or clinic sister. Keeping an eye on your child’s health is an important part of parenting. Look out for these warning signs at all times:
- Increased thirst
- Frequent urination
- Significant weight loss or weight gain
- Extreme fatigue
- Blurred vision
- Slow-healing sores and wounds
- Frequent infections
How is Childhood Diabetes Diagnosed?
Diabetes can only be properly diagnosed by a medical professional. If you are concerned about your child’s health in any way, book an appointment with your family doctor, paediatrician, or clinic sister, and ensure your child is fully checked and monitored for any health problems they may be facing. Diabetes is most commonly diagnosed after a series of blood tests. Your doctor may also request a urine sample, to confirm the diagnosis and what type of Diabetes your child has.
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Of course, dealing with a Diabetes diagnosis doesn’t stop once you leave the doctor’s office. Instead, managing a child with Diabetes will require a team effort from every family member, especially if it’s Type 2 Diabetes. Your paediatrician, doctor, clinic sister, or dietitian will help you create an eating plan for your child with Type 2 Diabetes, these are guidelines you can follow without leaving your home:
- Limit salt, saturated fat and sugar intake, especially on days with less physical activity.
- Make sure your child understands the concept of hydration and drinking enough water each day.
- Take action right now if your child is overweight. If you’re not sure, seek medical help about what the ideal weight for your child should be and ask for help working towards it as a goal.
- Read the label. Look at ingredients in the items you usually buy; avoid preservatives and additives, and make sure you check the sugar content before deciding if it’s appropriate for consumption. Big Tip: most processed foods are printed with a label. Fresh foods are not. Fresh fruit and vegetables should take priority in your child’s diet.
- Increase the amount of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in your family meals while cutting back on sweets, sugary foods, and animal products.
- Appropriately adjust the portion size of meals served to your child.
- Cut back on the amount of carbohydrates your child consumes as part of their everyday food intake.
- Embed medical discipline if any prescribed medication is provided.
Exercise Guidelines for Children with Diabetes
Between the ages of 5 and 17, children should be participating in physical activity for at least 60 minutes a day. Whether that’s walking, running, playing, or taking part in sport, it’s imperative that all children get enough exercise. Chat to your paediatrician, doctor, clinic sister, and your child’s teachers, about any ideas you may have for increasing your child’s’ daily exercise routine.
Do You Have a Question?
If you are concerned about your child’s health, book an appointment with your family doctor, paediatrician, or clinic sister. They’re best suited to assess your child’s health, prescribe any required treatment, or monitor your child’s wellbeing. For any further information on Diabetes, you can check out our Diabetes facts.
Anonymous. 2016. How South Africa can beat its sugar-fuelled diabetes epidemic. Health-E News. 27 November. Available at: https://health-e.org.za/2016/11/27/south-africa-can-beat-sugar-fuelled-diabetes-epidemic/ [Accessed 9 September 2019].
Bialo, SR. 2018. Type 1 Diabetes: What Is It?. Kids Health. Available at: https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/type1.html [Accessed 9 September 2019].
Canderel. 2015. Managing diabetes in children. Parent24. Press release. 7 September. Available at: https://www.parent24.com/Family/Health/Managing-diabetes-in-children-20140904 [Accessed 9 September 2019].
Diabetes South Africa. 2019. What are special concerns for children and teens with diabetes?. Available at: https://www.diabetessa.org.za/children-and-teenagers-with-diabetes/ [Accessed 9 September 2019].
Endocrine.org. 2017. Childhood obesity quadruples risk of developing type 2 diabetes. 25 April. Available at: https://www.endocrine.org/news-room/current-press-releases/childhood-obesity-quadruples-risk-of-developing-type-2-diabetes [Accessed 9 September 2019].
Makgabutlane, S. 2018. #WorldDiabetesDay: About 3.5m South African suffer from diabetes. Independent Online. 13 November. Available at: https://www.iol.co.za/the-star/news/worlddiabetesday-about-35m-south-african-suffer-from-diabetes-18095274 [Accessed 9 September 2019].
Mayoclinic. 2019. Type 1 diabetes in children. Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/type-1-diabetes-in-children/symptoms-causes/syc-20355306 [Accessed 9 September 2019].
Mayoclinic. 2019. Type 2 diabetes in children. Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/type-2-diabetes-in-children/symptoms-causes/syc-20355318 [Accessed 9 September 2019].
Medtronic. 2016. My child has diabetes. Available at: https://www.medtronicdiabetes.co.za/child-diabetes/challenges-children [Accessed 9 September 2019].
Millington, A. 2019. South Africa has just been ranked the unhealthiest country on earth. Business Insider. 19 March. Available at: https://www.businessinsider.co.za/most-unhealthy-countries-in-the-world-ranked-2019-3 [Accessed 9 September 2019].
Nall, R. 2018. An overview of diabetes types and treatments. Medical News Today. 8 November. Available at: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323627.php [Accessed 9 September 2019].
Oberholzer, G. 2016. The latest tool in the fight against childhood diabetes – an artificial pancreas. 14 March. Available at: http://www.702.co.za/articles/12215/the-latest-tool-in-the-fight-against-chhildhood-dianetes-an-artificial-apncreas [Accessed 9 September 2019].
Victoria State Government. 2019. Diabetes type 2. Available at: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/ConditionsAndTreatments/diabetes-type-2 [Accessed 9 September 2019].
Western Cape Government. 2017. Diabetes facts. 13 November. Available at: https://www.westerncape.gov.za/general-publication/diabetes-facts [Accessed 9 September 2019].
Whiteman, H. 2019. How does diabetes affect children and teens?. Medical News Today. 11 March. Available at: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/284974.php [Accessed 9 September 2019].
Zietsman, M. n.d. Type 2 diabetes, previously unheard of in children, is rising at alarming rates. ChildMag. Available at: http://www.childmag.co.za/content/diabetes#.XXY2opMzaqB [Accessed 9 September 2019].
We all have questions.
Below are some of the answers to the most common questions that you need to know.
Which is worse – Type 1 or Type 2 Diabetes?
“Worse” is a harsh comparison. The difference between these two types of Diabetes is that Type 1 requires insulin, and it never goes away. Type 2 requires consistent effort and can be managed over your lifetime.
What is the normal HbA1C level?
It is generally accepted that you should maintain HbA1C below 8%. The following guidelines are suggested by the South African Diabetes Association:
- 4 – 6% Non-diabetic range.
- < 7% Well-controlled diabetic 7% – 8% Acceptable diabetic control > 8%
- Poor diabetic control needs attention.
What is the main cause of Diabetes?
Diabetes (Type 1) is usually a predisposed or genetically inherited condition. Diabetes (Type 2) is caused by lifestyle choices. Gestational Diabetes can be caused by either genetics or lifestyle choices.
What are the first signs of diabetes?
- Excessive thirst over a prolonged period.
- Increased frequency in the need to urinate.
- Significant weight loss or gain.
- You find yourself fatigued, tired, and irritable, on a regular basis.
- Open or ruptured wounds take a long time to heal.
- Blurred vision.
- Tingling sensations in your hands and feet.
Can you get life insurance if you have Diabetes?
Yes. AllLife can help you get up to R10million life insurance, as either a Type 1 or Type 2 Diabetic.
Can I test myself for Diabetes?
Although you can easily test your own blood glucose levels at any time, only your doctor, nurse, or clinic team can confirm a Diabetes diagnosis. This is because a series of specific tests are required for diagnosis.
Up to R10 million Life Cover for people living with Diabetes.
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What will I be covered for?
With just one phone call, you could be offered comprehensive Diabetic Life Cover and Diabetic Disability Cover (optional). A simple underwriting process is completed once you’ve signed up, usually consisting of common blood tests, to determine if full cover can be continued.
What happens after I‘m covered?
After you’re covered you can enjoy the benefit of our Health Control Programme where we remind and assist you when it comes to regular tests and checkups, ensuring that you live a healthy and happy life.
Remember, life cover gets more expensive as you get older, so your premium will never be lower than it is today.