Thursday, March 14, 2013

Guest Post: Have a Heart for Kids' Health by Carolyn Fallon

Have a Heart for Kids' Health This March

When my young cousin was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes just a few short months ago, my family and I had much to learn about the disease. I was shocked that a 13 year-old could develop Type 2, but after conducting some research, I was saddened to find out that Type 2 has become a very common disease among today’s children. Information from Syracuse’s St. Joseph’s Cardiac Hospital points out a clear connection between untreated diabetes and the development of heart disease.  As February was National Heart Month, and March is National Nutrition Month, I have chosen to raise awareness regarding the prevalence of Type 2 in today’s world. If you are concerned about your own family, follow these simple tips towards prevention: 

Knowing the Facts and Risks
Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes are similar, but also very different from one another. Both are dangerous and have serious consequences, which is why it is so important to prevent them early on. 

Type 1 Diabetes, which makes up only around 5% of the Diabetes-population, occurs when the body attacks and destroys insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas, which results in the body’s inability to produce insulin and allows for glucose to stay in the blood, whereby it damages all of the body’s organs. Because Type 1 diabetics must take insulin, and because Type 1 is typically found in children, it is known as insulin-dependent or juvenile-onset diabetes. 

[Potential] causes of Type 1 include genetics (people usually need to inherit risk factors from each parent), being Caucasian, living in colder climates, and early diet. The risk for children being diagnosed with Type 1 depends largely on genetic factors of the parents – whether and when they had Type 1, if both parents have Type 1, and the age parents are when they have their kids. 

Type 2 Diabetes, which makes up around 90-95% of diabetes cases, occurs when the body doesn’t produce enough insulin, or the cells ignore the insulin. Like Type 1, Type 2 also causes a build-up of glucose in the blood, which damage body organs. Once referred to as adult-onset diabetes (due to it only being diagnosed in adults), it is now commonly found in children due to unhealthy diets and lack of physical exercise.

[Potential] causes of Type 2 include family history and environmental factors of obesity, unhealthy diet, and lack of physical activity. The risk for children being diagnosed with Type 2 depends greatly on if their parents were diagnosed with Type 2 – with the risk being greater the younger the parents were when diagnosed, whether both or just one off the parents have Type 2, and what the lifestyle habits are – an unhealthy diet and low-none physical activity greatly increase the risk for the development of Type 2 Diabetes.  

Getting Regular Exercise
To help your kids get fit, start participating in regular physical exercise together. Here are a few fun ideas you can do with one another:

     - Enroll in martial arts classes where you can get fit and learn 
       positive mental habits 
     - Take advantage of fitness programs at your local YMCA or
       community center 
     - Rent/buy/watch family-friendly exercise videos – my cousins 
       particularly like doing Yoga and Zumba together 
     - When the weather permits, have some family fun hiking at a local 
       nature center or take a brisk walk around the neighborhood.

Eating Healthy
All that exercise is sure to kick up a healthy appetite, and it’s important to be armed to meet it with the healthiest options possible. 

     - Offer your kids natural snacks such as nuts, fruit or fresh vegetables 
       in place of candy, baked goods and other high-calorie, low-nutrient
     - At mealtime, replace processed and fatty meats with vegetarian 
       options or lean cuts of naturally raised meat.
     - Limit your intake of carbohydrates, sugars, and salty foods. 
     - Get creative! Finding healthier ways to cook your favorite foods can
       be a very rewarding, yummy and beneficial experience! 
     - Get the kids involved. Let them help with grocery shopping, 
       planning meals, and even helping cook (if they are old enough to). 

- whole grains – brown rice, barley, wild rice, slow-cooking 
 oatmeal, whole-grain breads and pastas, and quinoa 
- beans and legumes
- lots of fresh veggies – not prepared with unhealthy fats
- whole, fresh fruits like berries, apples, and citrus fruits such as
 oranges and grapefruits – make sure to avoid canned fruits with
 added sweeteners and syrups
- non-fat or low-fat dairy 
- lean proteins – fish and shellfish, skinless poultry breasts, and 
 lean cuts of meat

Also, making sure to eat heart-healthy foods is important. Here are a few foods to make a regular part of your diet:
- salmon, tuna
- black or kidney beans
- almonds, walnuts, flaxseed
- tofu
- brown rice 
- blueberries, oranges, cantaloupe, papaya
- spinach, carrots, broccoli, sweet potato, red bell peppers, 
 asparagus, tomatoes, acorn squash
- dark chocolate
- tea, red wine

Delicious Homemade Hummus Recipe
Homemade hummus is a savory, nutritious treat that can be used in sandwiches or as a dip. 

1. Drain two cans of chickpeas. 
2. Combine with 2 tablespoons of tahini, a paste made from sesame seeds and available in the health food section of your grocery store with 3 tablespoons of olive oil.  
3. Add ½ cup warm water, the juice of ½ a lime or lemon and ¼ teaspoon salt.
**I like to include a couple cloves of garlic, pressed, or ½ teaspoon of granulated garlic for flavor.
4. Use a handheld blender or food processor to combine and puree ingredients.
5. Voila! Serve with freshly cut-up veggies, on a sandwich, or with some whole-grain pita wedges or crackers. Enjoy! 

A few changes to your family’s lifestyle can ensure a healthier future for your children. Isn’t it time to take their health to heart?

Carolyn is a 20-something year old with a passion for life, fitness and overall well-being. She is an avid cycler, golfer and has been known to bust some serious moves on the dance floor. Check out Carolyn’s blog at


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