Childhood obesity: What are the dangers?

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Childhood obesity is the No. 1 health concerns for parents in the U.S. About one in three children and teens in the U.S. is overweight or obese. We need to fix this.

Childhood obesity occurs, just like adult obesity, plain and simple, from eating too many calories and not getting enough physical activity. Obesity impacts every organ system in the body. Obesity is regarded as more damaging to the body than smoking or excessive drinking.

Obesity in kids is causing a lot of health problems that previously weren’t seen until adulthood.  These include high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol. Obese kids also have greater risk of bone and joint problems, and snoring or sleep apnea. There are also psychological effects. Obese children are more prone to low self-esteem, negative body image, bullying, and depression.

Overweight kids have an 80% chance of staying overweight their entire lives. Being an obese child has been linked to higher and earlier death rates in adulthood.  When these children become overweight adults, they are at higher risk for heart disease, stroke, arthritis, and several types of cancer such as breast, colon, uterine, thyroid as well as cancers in the GI system.

So why are our kids obese? Well in the last 20 years the average portion size of food has increased.  Kids are not as active due to video games, TV, and computers.  And many schools are limiting recess time.  Kids are also eating more fast food. Did you know the most commonly consumed vegetable of children is French fries?  We need to help our children.

We parents are important role models for our kids. If parents are unhealthy, children are likely to be unhealthy too.  One of the best strategies to reduce childhood obesity is to improve diet and exercise habits of the entire family. Serve more fruits and vegetables, not fried. Buy fewer soft drinks, high fat, high calorie snack foods. Limit the amount of fast food.  And get your kids outside. Physical activity is mandatory. Kids need about 60 minutes each day. It does not have to happen all at once. Many short periods of activity during the day are perfect.

If you child is overweight or obese, take them to their pediatrician to make sure there is nothing physically wrong with them. Then start them on track NOW to a healthier lifestyle, they will thank you when they grow up.


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