Madison (WKOW) -- More kids than ever are being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
That's the type that usually only occurs in adults.
Not only are these kids facing a lifelong chronic illness, but they're also struggling to make the important lifestyle changes that can help them manage the diabetes.
Over the past 15 years, the number of children diagnosed with type two diabetes has risen by 33 percent.
Eleven-year-old Jennifer Russell is a speed demon on a treadmill.
But not long ago, she didn't feel like doing much of anything.
She says, "I was thirsty, and I felt sick all the time. I always had a headache."
She was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
With orders from the doctor to lose weight, Jennifer and her family flew into action.
Tonia Staggs, her mother says, "She's got a treadmill, a trampoline, she's got a weight bench set and an exercise bike."
Steps like these will help Jennifer manage her diabetes, a condition that's occurring more frequently in kids.
A recent study finds these young patients face big challenges.
Dr. Russell Rothman says, "Adolescents have a hard time appreciating the long-term benefits of something they're doing now, and so it's very hard to motivate them to take good care of themselves and to follow a good diet and exercise behaviors."
The researchers found kids adapted quickly to daily finger pricks and taking medicine, but resisted lifestyle changes.
"You really have to commit yourself everyday, and you know, it's something that you're doing where you're not always seeing the immediate benefit.", says Dr. Rothman.
To help kids take charge of their health, Dr. Rothman says, 'start small.'
"You want to give them some very simple goals that they can accomplish to make them feel good about themselves, and hopefully motivate them to do more healthy behaviors down the road."
Goals worth aiming for to ensure a healthy future.
Today type two diabetes accounts for up to 50 percent of all diabetes cases in children.
The young patients tend to be between the ages of 10 and 19 with a strong family history of type two diabetes.
Health experts say the upward trend is fueled by the growing number of obese and sedentary children in the u-s, which is why Dr. Rothman says it's critical for these kids and their families to take the lifestyle changes seriously.
He says the longer the disease is held in check, the better.