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Health and Fitness News

A Growing Childhood Concern

Childhood obesity is on the rise. What are the causes and consequences?

Around the world, people are getting bigger. And bigger. For a long time, many thought the problem was confined to adults. But that’s changed. Today, adults aren’t the only ones who deal with weight gain. Kids and teens are increasingly at risk as well. While fewer health conditions are associated with obesity at a young age, overweight kids are more likely to become overweight adults. When that happens, those same kids wind up dealing with chronic health consequences.

Kids may not have to worry about physical health problems yet, but the weight does lead to problems. Low self-esteem, depression, and stress are just a few issues they’ll face. Why are so many kids overweight, what are the risks, and how should parents approach the subject? Read on to find out.

A Big, Complex Problem

The cause of obesity isn’t always clear cut. Like adults, kids gain weight for a variety of reasons.

It’s often genetic. If parents or other family members are overweight, kids are more likely to be as well. A lack of exercise and an unhealthy diet are often part of the problem. Other potential causes include a lack of access to affordable, healthy food, and no nearby places for physical activity.

In most cases, obesity is a combination of factors. In rare instances, obesity may be caused by an underlying medical problem, hormone imbalance, or medication. However, excusing a child’s weight on these rare issues isn’t a good idea. Doing so may prevent the child from working to obtain a healthy weight.
Of course, junk food and screetime play a role. Every minute a child is watching television or playing a video game is another minute the child is not being active.

Take It Seriously

While overweight adults are at a greater risk for health complications, kids aren’t immune to them. Compared to children of a healthy weight, obese children are more likely to deal with the following health problems:

  • Acne
  • AsthmaDiabetes
  • Bone problems
  • Fatty liver disease
  • Glucose intolerance
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Heart disease
  • Insulin resistance
  • Joint problems
  • Sleep apnea
  • Reflux

It’s not just physical health that’s affected by the extra weight. A child’s mental and emotional health is impacted as well. As a result, overweight kids are more likely to deal with bullying, anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem.

Check the Chart

So how do you know if your child is overweight or obese? It can be difficult, especially if they just seem big-boned or muscular. It can be just as difficult if they just seem to grow fast.

The best way is to head to the doctor’s office. At your child’s annual well-visits, the pediatrician should track and chart your child’s weight and height. You can then tell if your child is overweight based on growth patterns compared to other kids their age and sex. How? With your child’s BMI.

Just be careful. BMI in children is a bit different than adults. While adults can do a simple math problem, there’s more to consider with kids. Once BMI is figured out, you have to ask how your child compares to other children? This is where the chart at your pediatrician’s office comes in. It charts other children’s BMI for comparison purposes. Children whose weight falls within the 85th and 95th percentile are overweight. Over the 95th percentile is considered obese.

Ways to Help Your Child

You may feel at a loss when it comes to helping an overweight child. To get started, tell your child you love them no matter what. Then prove that you’re their biggest supporter. Offer a listening ear for their concerns and fears.
A child shouldn’t be singled out for their weight. Rather, the entire family should work toward the goal of being healthy. Become more active as a family unit.

Limit screen time, encourage sports, and engage in active family activities. Most importantly, set an example for your kids of an active, healthy lifestyle. Prepare healthy meals, avoid fast food, and keep junk food out of the house.