Childhood Obesity

As with adults, there is a difference in the definitions of being overweight and obese. An overweight child will have excess body weight, for their height, due to increased fat, muscle tissue, bone, water weight, or in combinations. Obesity is different since it is characterized by excess in body weight that is due only to fat. Childhood obesity is increasing in prevalence. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention have published the following statistics that illustrate this increasing trend:
• Within the last 30 years, the prevalence of childhood obesity has tripled in numbers
• 20% of children ages 6-11 years old and 18% of 12-19 year olds are obese as of 2008
Unfortunately, children can be cruel and make fun of another peer for being obese. This obviously, can negative effects on their self-esteem, emotional, and mental health. However, childhood obesity does cause other serious health risks, which The Center for Disease Control and Prevention have alerted the public to, with the following supporting statistics:
• There is an increase in the likelihood of having risk factors for heart disease, such as high blood pressure or cholesterol levels; 70% of children suffering from obesity, ages 5-17 years old, have at least one risk factor for heart disease.
• Increased likelihood of developing pre-diabetes. As mentioned in previous blogs, pre-diabetes is an increased blood glucose level, and without control, may progress into type 2 diabetes. Pre-diabetics will have a blood glucose level of 110-125 mg/dL. One of the best ways to prevent pre-diabetes from progressing into type 2 diabetes is to exercise and eat healthy. Adding 30 minutes of exercise to the daily routine, five days per week, and losing 7% of overall body weight, will decrease the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 58%.
• There is an increased risk for musculoskeletal problems with the bones and joints
• Increased prevalence of sleep apnea; sleep apnea is defined as stopping breathing temporarily during sleep, which will result in a decrease of the necessarily amounts of oxygen to the brain, which can lead to other serious health problems.
• Increased risk of the following types of cancer: breast, ovarian, endometrium, esophagus, kidney, pancreas, gall bladder, thyroid, colon, cervix, prostate, multiple myeloma, and Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Even though many people do not think of obesity as being a disease, it truly is very detrimental and can be debilitating. As mentioned, childhood obesity not only affects the emotional and mental health of a child, but also the physical well-being. There is not an easy treatment for childhood obesity. As with adult obesity, the best way to lose the weight is by exercising regularly and eating an appropriate nutritious diet. It is best to consult with your family physician or dietician to work out a plan to start helping your child to lose weight. It is also a must that schools start serving more healthy lunch options, as well as limiting the accessibility to vending machines that lack healthy snack options. Lastly, it is crucial, that the family is supportive of the child as losing weight can be a difficult and frustrating goal, without the proper support.
For more information regarding childhood obesity, please visit http://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/obesity/facts.htm

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