Childhood obesity is a serious medical condition that affects children and adolescents. It occurs when a child is well above the normal weight for his or her age and height. Childhood obesity is particularly troubling because the extra pounds often start children on the path to health problems that were once confined to adults, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Childhood obesity can also lead to poor self-esteem and depression. One of the best strategies to reduce childhood obesity is to improve the diet and exercise habits of your entire family.
Treating and preventing childhood obesity helps protect the health of your child now and in the future. Not all children carrying extra pounds are overweight or obese. Some children have larger than average body frames. And children normally carry different amounts of body fat at the various stages of development. So you might not know just by looking at your child if his or her weight is a health concern. Although there are some genetic and hormonal causes of childhood obesity, most of the time it’s caused by kids eating too much and exercising too little.
Far less common than lifestyle issues are genetic diseases and hormonal disorders that can make a child more likely to be obese. Many factors, usually working in combination increase your child’s risk of becoming overweight for example his/hers diet, Regularly eating high-calorie foods, such as fast foods, baked goods and vending machine snacks, can easily cause your child to gain weight. Loading up on soft drinks containing sugar, candy and desserts also can cause weight gain. Foods and beverages like these are high in sugar, fat and calories.
Lacks of exercise, children who don’t exercise much are more likely to gain weight because they don’t burn calories through physical activity. Inactive leisure activities, such as watching television or playing video games, contribute to the problem. Family history, if your child comes from a family of overweight people, he or she may be more likely to put on excess weight, especially in an environment where high-calorie food is always available and physical activity isn’t encouraged. Psychological factors, some children overeat to cope with problems or to deal with emotions, such as stress, or to fight boredom.
Their parents may have similar tendencies. Family factors, if many of the groceries you buy are convenience foods, such as cookies, chips and other high-calorie items, this can contribute to your child’s weight gain. If you can control your child’s access to high-calorie foods, you may be able to help your child lose weight. Socioeconomic factors, foods that won’t spoil quickly, such as frozen meals, crackers and cookies often contain a lot of salt and fats. These foods are often less expensive or an easier option than fresher, healthier foods.
Childhood obesity can have complications for the physical, social and emotional well-being of your child. Physical complications Type 2 diabetes, Type 2 diabetes in children is a chronic condition that affects the way your child’s body metabolizes sugar (glucose). Type 2 diabetes is caused in part by a poor diet, and can often be reversed by eating healthier foods and exercising. Metabolic syndrome, metabolic syndrome isn’t a disease itself, but a cluster of conditions that can put your child at risk of developing heart disease, diabetes or other health problems.
This cluster of conditions includes high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high cholesterol and excess abdominal fat. High cholesterol and high blood pressure. Your child can develop high blood pressure or high cholesterol if he or she eats a poor diet. These factors can contribute to the buildup of plaques in the arteries. These plaques can cause arteries to narrow and harden, which can lead to a heart attack or stroke later in life. Asthma and other breathing problems, the extra weight on your child’s body can cause problems with the development and health of your child’s lungs, leading to asthma or other breathing problems.
Sleep disorders. Sleep apnea, a condition in which your child may snore or have abnormal breathing when he or she sleeps, can be a complication of childhood obesity. Pay attention to breathing problems your child may have while sleeping. Early puberty or menstruation, being obese can create hormone imbalances for your child. These imbalances can cause puberty to start earlier than expected, social and emotional complications. Low self-esteem and bullying, children often tease or bully their overweight peers, who suffer a loss of self-esteem and an increased risk of depression as a result.
Behavior and learning problems, overweight children tend to have more anxiety and poorer social skills than normal-weight children have. At one extreme, these problems may lead overweight children to act out and disrupt their classrooms. At the other, they may cause overweight children to socially withdraw. Stress and anxiety also interfere with learning. School-related anxiety can create a vicious cycle in which ever-growing worry fuels ever-declining academic performance.
Depression, low self-esteem can create overwhelming feelings of hopelessness in some overweight children. When children lose hope that their lives will improve, they may become depressed. A depressed child may lose interest in normal activities, sleep more than usual or cry a lot. Some depressed children hide their sadness and appear emotionally flat instead. Either way, depression is as serious in children as in adults. If you think your child is depressed, talk with him or her and share your concerns with his or her doctor.
As part of regular well-child care, the doctor calculates your child’s body mass index (BMI) and determines where it falls on the national BMI-for-age growth chart. The BMI helps indicate if your child is overweight for his or her age and height, using the growth chart, your doctor determines your child’s percentile, meaning how your child compares with other children of the same sex and age. So, for example, you might be told that your child is in the 80th percentile. This means that compared with other children of the same sex and age, 80 percent have a lower BMI.
Cutoff points on these growth charts, established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), help identify overweight and obese children: BMI-for-age between 85th and 94th percentiles — overweight, BMI-for-age 95th percentile or above — obesity. Because BMI doesn’t consider things like being muscular or having a larger than average body frame and because growth patterns vary greatly among children, your doctor also factors your child’s growth and development into consideration.
This helps determine whether your child’s weight is a health concern. In addition to BMI and charting weight on the growth charts, the doctor also evaluates: Your family’s history of obesity and weight-related health problems, such as diabetes, your child’s eating habits, your child’s activity level, and other health conditions your child may have. Blood tests, your child’s doctor may order blood tests if he or she finds that your child is obese.
These tests include: A cholesterol test, a blood sugar test (fasting blood glucose). Other blood tests to check for hormone imbalances that could affect your child’s weight. Some of these tests require that your child not eat or drink anything for up to eight hours before the test. Your child’s doctor should tell you whether your child should fast before a blood test. Healthy lifestyle habits, including healthy eating and physical activity, can lower the risk of becoming obese and developing related diseases.
The dietary and physical activity behaviors of children and adolescents are influenced by many sectors of society, including families, communities, schools, child care settings, medical care providers, faith-based institutions, government agencies, the media, and the food and beverage industries and entertainment industries. Schools play a particularly critical role by establishing a safe and supportive environment with policies and practices that support healthy behaviors. Schools also provide opportunities for students to learn about and practice healthy eating and physical activity behaviors.