Although prior to the 1980s, it was uncommon in children and adolescents, type 2 diabetes has risen substantially among children and teens in recent decades. Once known as “adult onset” diabetes, type 2 is typically associated with a lifetime of difficult, costly care, and puts individuals at risk for serious complications. The younger the person is, the earlier these complications may occur. Patients who fail to receive or follow through with the care their conditions demand put themselves at higher and higher risk for health problems. This includes loss of sight, amputations, heart disease and possibly even death.

It’s up to parents and other guardians to help children avoid type 2 diabetes. Fortunately, there is a lot that can be done safely and naturally with the right approach.

First, it’s important for kids to maintain a healthy weight and avoid obesity. Today’s lifestyles are more sedentary for adults and for kids. Getting the whole family involved in a healthy eating plan and appropriate levels of exercise can lower the risk of childhood obesity, or help a child to lose weight if it’s already a problem. A team approach, one that involves everyone in the family, is likely to be far more effective than singling out one individual for necessary changes.

Children, teens and adults can all benefit from healthier food choices such as plenty of vegetables, fruits and lean meats, and fewer processed, sugary foods. Avoiding fast foods and opting for home-cooked, real food meals can promote proper nutrition and a healthy weight. A healthier diet and active lifestyle may be especially beneficial for children who have a family history of diabetes.

New research continues on how to help children avoid developing type 2 diabetes, and parents should take a proactive approach in learning how best to help their kids stay healthy. One study titled “Sleep Duration and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes” (Rudnicka AR, et al. Pediatrics. Aug. 15, 2017) suggests that more sleep may be helpful in lowering risk factors for type 2 diabetes in children.

If you’re very concerned about your child’s risk for type 2 diabetes due to risk factors, consider working with a functional wellness care practitioner who can help with a comprehensive evaluation and customized plan of support. Functional wellness focuses on digging deep to explore the root causes of chronic health conditions, and then working to bring about wellness through safe, natural therapeutic support. It’s a terrific choice as complementary care for children who are already seeing a traditional health care provider for type 2 diabetes. It’s also helpful for prediabetics or those who present a risk for developing the disease. A proactive approach to avoiding type 2 diabetes can make a difference for children and teens today and across their lifetimes.