Helping Teens With Type 1 Diabetes Avoid Heart Trouble

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Helping Teens Type 1 Diabetes Avoid Heart Trouble

In a paper newly published in the journal Pediatric Diabetes, Joslin researchers have identified strategies that can help teens with Type 1 diabetes prevent future heart trouble. According to Michelle Katz, MD, MPH, lead author of the study, “There’s an immediacy to how teens view things so we try to reach them…and think about what will motivate them.”

It’s been established that people with Type 1 diabetes are more likely to develop cardiovascular problems than those without diabetes. The risks are even greater if the patient has high blood pressure or elevated cholesterol and triglyceride levels. That’s why it’s important to help young diabetes patients develop ways of minimizing the risks of these problems as early in life as possible.

The authors of the study, which was based on interviews with teens with Type 1 diabetes and their parents, say that the first step is to give youngsters basic information about potential problems. For example, some teens thought that the worst effect of high blood pressure was that it could cause headaches. The researchers also found that teens are more likely to adopt heart-healthy behaviors if they can envision immediate results, such as weight loss, more energy, or even clearer skin. Exercise, the researchers said, can be facilitated if a youngster joins a sports team or follows some kind of regular schedule or just finds a friend to exercise with — and it’s helpful to choose an activity that the teen really likes.

As for heart-protective medications, the researchers learned that although many parents were reluctant to have their children begin using them, the teens themselves were likely to see them as nothing more than another addition to their daily routine. Finally, the teenagers were more likely than parents to suggest that their diets might not be as healthful as they should be. Because parents are more liable to do the food shopping and the cooking, the researchers suggested that parents and children should work together to identify wholesome food strategies.

The researchers now plan to develop a pilot program that will put the lessons learned from their research into practical effect.

Want to learn more about the teenage years with diabetes? Read “Resolving Parent–Teen Conflicts,” “When Your Teen Just Quits: Diabetes and the Teenage Years,” “Transitioning to Adult Diabetes Care,” and “Managing Type 1 Diabetes in College.”

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