Diabetes is a common condition; affecting around 3 million people in the UK with an estimated 1 million more living with it undiagnosed. With the number of type 2 cases having risen year on year since the start of the millennium, doctors are now warning that the risk is growing for younger generations. Earlier this year, five toddlers in Scotland were diagnosed with the condition and, in 2014, seventy children were identified as having type 2 diabetes, whereas 15 years ago this was unheard of.
Though it can affect anyone, overweight children are at greater risk than those of a healthy weight, and the consequences that come along with this are a serious concern. Developing the condition at such a young age is thought to increase the risk of complication such as heart, disease, kidney disease and premature death.
The causes of type 1 diabetes are not yet fully understood and therefore, at the moment, the condition is not preventable because it is not related to an unhealthy lifestyle but is inherent to each person. Type 2 diabetes, on the other hand, is usually triggered by a number of factors, with excess weight being the main cause, and can be a warning signal for a number of other health issues.
Preventing the emergence of Type 2 diabetes is all about being healthy. With excess weight being the leading cause of the condition, it's easy to see who is at risk in most cases. It is especially important to monitor your or your child's weight if there is a history of Type 2 diabetes in the family, and the chances of your child developing Type 2 diabetes are higher if you have the condition yourself. Of course that doesn't mean a child will definitely develop the condition if their parent has it, but it is worth bearing this additional risk in mind.
Diet and exercise are vital for good health and it is clear that, over the last decades, general fitness in the UK has declined, with obesity rising and becoming more common in children than it ever has been. Experts have highlighted more sedentary lifestyles and a worsening diet as triggering this increase in weight. To an extent, gaming and multimedia has replaced playing outside while processed and fast food is enjoyed instead of traditional, nutritious home-cooked meals, and these have been highlighted as major factors in this health decline.
At the moment there are only a few cases of children with type 2 diabetes, but we could be headed for a health 'disaster' if under-18s continue to lead unhealthy lifestyles. For several decades the life expectancy of children has exceeded that of their parents', but this new evidence suggests each generation is becoming progressively less healthy, which could potentially lead to a reversal of this trend.