Tag Archives: Childhood Obesity

Type II Diabetes Epidemic

Diabetes Increases Risk for Heart Disease

Obesity ConceptMillions of people have Type II diabetes and the number is growing with the obesity epidemic. At first, as blood sugars rise, Type II diabetes is a silent disease without recognized symptoms, but behind-the-scenes, excess sugar molecules in the blood are causing harm.

Diabetes occurs when inadequate insulin is available for sugar metabolism. Instead of being used by cells for energy, the sugar molecules increase in the blood and interfere with cell function. This leads to heart disease, high blood pressure, strokes, vision impairment and kidney damage.

Type II diabetes is a complex metabolic problem. Although the body produces enough insulin at first, it isn’t being used properly because at the cellular level, insulin resistance develops. This stimulating the pancreas to produce more and more insulin, until the cells become distressed and die off, leaving the body unable to maintain proper insulin production. The disease worsens.

Treatment for diabetes is variable. It can be very complex, requiring numerous medications, self testing and the addition of insulin injections. Some people do very well for years in a pre-diabetic state. If a fasting blood sugar is minimally elevated, just taking the oral medication metformin, may reduce progression. But if the sugar continues to rise, additional treatment must be started as soon as possible to normalize the sugar.

If someone you know is overweight, particularly if the weight is carried around the waistline, blood sugar levels should be monitored and treated if elevated. Losing weight will help, but weight loss is not easy.

Best results occur with reduced caloric intake and healthful food choices, combined Family exercisewith exercise. Even walking thirty minutes a day, helps lower blood sugar, burns calories and improves longevity.

Type I diabetes is different from Type II. Type I is usually seen in young often thin people, including infants and children. Cells in the pancreas that make insulin are destroyed and are unable to produce insulin, a hormone essential for sugar metabolism. Insulin cannot be taken orally. It must be injected or taken as a nasal spray.

obesityType II diabetes had been a disease of aging people until recent years when overweight children began developing this serious problem. Like adults, children are at risk for serious cardiovascular disease. Elevated blood glucose levels damage arteries throughout the body. Over time the vessels become so narrowed they cannot carry an adequate supply of oxygen-rich blood and nutrients to vital organs. As more children become obese, more of them develop diabetes and are at risk for early heart disease.

So, what should we do? First, understand that Type II diabetes is a serious health risk even when no symptoms are apparent. The American Diabetes Association recommends having a fasting blood sugar test performed at least annually. Blood is taken after having nothing to eat or drink for at least eight hours. A fasting blood sugar above 100 is abnormal.

Another blood test, the hemoglobin A1C, measures red blood cell glucose attachment. This test correlates directly with the blood glucose levels over preceding weeks/months. If the A1C is 8, the glucose average has been 183mg/dl. Until more information becomes available, specialists believe an A1C goal of <7% is valuable in reducing health risks.

Symptoms of High Blood Sugar:
Excess urination (Ex.-Getting up at night repeatedly.)
Excess water consumption (Ex.-Drinking water during the night.)
Increased appetite, blurred vision, low energy
Neuropathy (burning pain and numb feelings in hands and feet)

Additional information regarding diabetes, healthful eating and weight control can be found on the following websites:
www.realage.com, www.diabetes.orgDiabetes Health in your handsBetty Kuffel, MD

Heart Disease in Children


The Bogalusa Heart Study reported obese children as young as five show artery changes seen in early heart disease. Additional studies show obese children, in particular, have the same metabolic disorders as adults leading to early heart disease.

Many factors contribute to cardiovascular diseasethe leading cause of death in adults. A lifetime of excessive eating and not enough exercise combined with smoking are three leading causes of early heart attack and death. Many people with arteries nearly closed have no symptoms. Some have multiple heart arteries with blockages above 90% and don’t know it. A key to living longer is recognizing risk factors and lowering your risks by making healthy choices and seeing a physician for a physical and laboratory studies.

Inherited Risk with High Cholesterol Genes

Some families have faulty cholesterol genes placing them at risk for early heart disease. High cholesterol levels increase the risk of early death. In my family, males had heart attacks in their 30’s and 40’s and died very young, but today, that statistic can be changed. Today, children who carry the inherited trait for high cholesterol can be diagnosed early and treated. When treated, they are living longer than their parents did.

A new National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute recommendation is to test the cholesterol level (called a lipid panel) in children between the ages of 9 to 11. Previously, lipid testing beginning at age 20 was recommended.

Note: There are experts who disagree with this recommendation but if your child has familial and other risks, discuss cholesterol with your child’s pediatrician or family doctor.

Parents don’t often think about their child’s cholesterol levels but heart disease can develop in childhood. The test involves taking a blood sample to analyze for different kinds of fats (lipids) in the blood. Cholesterol is a lipid or fat. High levels of cholesterol are known to contribute not only to heart disease, but also strokes.

Over time as cholesterol accumulates within the wall of heart arteries, blockages starve the heart muscle of oxygen and nutrients. For most people, the process occurs over a lifetime of eating the wrong food and too much of it, with inadequate exercise. But in families with faulty cholesterol genes, the problem becomes evident at a young age and shortens life.


Drugs called statins may be prescribed in adults and in some high risk children and teens to lower cholesterol levels and prolong lives. The primary treatment in all ages is proper eating and an active lifestyle. Taking statins helps, but a low fat nutritious diet with predominant fresh fruits and vegetables is most important.

Additional Obesity Health Risks in Childrenobesity

A study published this year from the University of Eastern Finland showed obese children as young as six had already developed high blood pressure, high glucose and high insulin levels showing insulin resistance like adult Type 2 diabetics. In addition, the children had high triglycerides (a fat contributing to heart disease) and low HDL-cholesterol, the good cholesterol – the one you want high. They found blood pressure, triglyceride and insulin level elevations contributed to stiffening even in young arteries. This leads to cardiovascular disease.

 High blood pressure is a silent disease in both adults and children. Treatment decreases risk for the development of cardiovascular disease. Pediatricians now recommend measuring blood pressures in children at every visit beginning at age three. High blood pressure in children is more common in obese children and must be a part of the child’s health evaluation.

Type 2 diabetes accelerates cardiovascular disease. It was formerly a disease of older adults. Now Type 2 diabetes is common in overweight teens.

 Researchers in a Washington University study found a link between teen depression and obesity. With inactivity and smoking, the study also found teens are twice as likely to die by age 55 than non-smokers. Recognizing and treating depression, stopping smoking, avoiding second hand smoke, normalizing weight and increasing exercise can lower heart disease risk for at risk children and teens.

Early diagnosis with physician monitoring and appropriate interventions along with healthy food choices beginning in childhood and an active lifestyle are the keys to better health and a longer life.

dinner-on-healthy-platechildren kids bicycling