Obesity frequently becomes a lifelong issue. Take it seriously
At least five per cent of American children are ‘severely obese,’ and the number is growing according to the American Heart Association. The risk only rises as they grow older.
The problem of childhood obesity in the United States has grown considerably in recent years. Between 16 and 33 percent of children and adolescents are obese. Obesity is among the easiest medical conditions to recognize but most difficult to treat.
What is obesity?
Children over age 2 are severely obese if their BMI is at least 20 per cent higher than the 95th percentile for their gender and age, according to the AHA. Broken down further, a child in the 95th percentile weighs more than 95 per cent of his or her peers.
What causes obesity?
Obesity occurs when a person eats more calories than the body burns up.
If one parent is obese, there is a 50 percent chance that their children will also be obese. However, when both parents are obese, their children have an 80 percent chance of being obese.
Less than 1 percent of all obesity is caused by physical problems.
Obesity in childhood and adolescence can be related to:
· poor eating habits
· overeating or binging
· lack of exercise (i.e., couch potato kids)
· family history of obesity
· medical illnesses (endocrine, neurological problems)
· medications (steroids, some psychiatric medications)
· stressful life events or changes (separations, divorce, moves, deaths, abuse)
· family and peer problems
· low self-esteem
· depression or other emotional problems
What are risks and complications of obesity?
· increased risk of heart disease
· high blood pressure
· breathing problems
Child and adolescent obesity is also associated with increased risk of emotional problems. Teens with weight problems tend to have much lower self-esteem and be less popular with their peers. Depression, anxiety, and obsessive compulsive disorder can also occur.
Among the more troubling health concerns are cardiovascular issues such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type two diabetes – which used to be referred to as ‘adult onset diabetes’- and artherosclerosis, a disease that clogs arteries, the AHA said.
But the trouble doesn’t end there. Teens who were once overweight or obese are at a significant risk of developing an eating disorder as they lose weight. CDC figures that 55% of high school girls and 30% of boys report “disordered eating symptoms” to lose weight, such as diet pills, vomiting, laxatives, fasting and binge-eating.
Ways to manage obesity in children and adolescents include:
· start a weight-management program
· change eating habits (eat slowly, develop a routine)
· plan meals and make better food selections (eat less fatty foods, avoid junk and fast foods)
· control portions and consume less calories
· increase physical activity (especially walking) and have a more active lifestyle
· know what your child eats at school
· eat meals as a family instead of while watching television or at the computer
· do not use food as a reward
· limit snacking
· attend a support group (e.g., Overeaters Anonymous)
Source: AMA, Pediatrics, AACAP, AHA