Obesity-Related Health Problems in Kids
It's well known that childhood obesity is a risk factor for chronic diseases in adulthood. But what many parents might not realize until problems arise is that overweight and obese kids and teens often have weight-related problems during childhood.
Kids who are considered obese (with a body mass index, or BMI, at or above the 95th percentile) are at risk for:
- obstructive sleep apnea (blocked breathing during sleep)
- breathing problems (such as asthma and exercise intolerance)
- type 2 diabetes
- high blood pressure (hypertension)
- bone and joint problems
- liver disease
- elevated cholesterol and triglycerides (which are risk factors for cardiovascular problems)
- menstrual irregularities
- anxiety, depression, low self-esteem
- bullying and discrimination
There's also thought to be a connection between obesity and early puberty, especially in girls. Overweight kids tend to grow faster and enter puberty earlier, and obesity might play a role in earlier onset of breast development, usually the first sign that a girl is entering puberty.
What This Means to You
The far-reaching health problems associated with obesity have dire implications for kids right now. So it's vital that parents do all they can to help kids reach and maintain a healthy weight. Being a good role model is a key part of this — let your kids see you eating healthy foods in appropriate serving sizes, enjoying treats in moderation, and exercising regularly.
And you don't have to go it alone. The health care reform legislation includes $15 billion earmarked for public health programs designed to help prevent health problems and keep Americans healthy, including $16 million that will go toward combating obesity and promoting fitness. Another provision requires "nutrient content disclosure statements" at chain restaurants, which is significant since an estimated 84% of parents take kids for fast food at least once a week. Look for calorie counts and other nutritional breakdowns listed on in-store and drive-through menus soon.
The long-term picture, of course, is still important. Kids who reach a healthy weight not only have less risk for obesity-related problems, but are more likely to avoid obesity later. Results of a recent study show that obese teens are 16 times more likely to become severely obese in adulthood compared with those who are normal weight or overweight.
Consider talking to your doctor or a nutritionist about ways to fight obesity as a family.
Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: December 2010
|American Dietetic Association The American Dietetic Association offers nutrition news, tips, resources for consumers and dietitians, and a find-a-nutritionist search tool.|
|American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) The AAP is committed to the health and well-being of infants, adolescents, and young adults. The website offers news articles and tips on health for families.|
|Nemours Health and Prevention Services (NHPS) NHPS works with families and community partners to help kids grow up healthy, with a focus on childhood obesity prevention and emotional and behavioral health during early childhood.|
|Metabolic Syndrome Metabolic syndrome is a group of health problems that put kids at risk for heart disease and diabetes. With lifestyle changes, however, many kids are able to improve their health and reduce their risk of disease.|
|High Blood Pressure (Hypertension) High blood pressure, or hypertension, is usually associated with older people. But some kids do have it, and it can be life-threatening if left untreated.|
|Weight and Diabetes A balanced diet and an active lifestyle are important for kids with diabetes because weight can influence diabetes, and diabetes can influence weight.|
|Can Diabetes Be Prevented? Parents want to protect their kids from everything, which is virtually impossible, of course. But can you prevent your child from getting diabetes?|
|Body Mass Index (BMI) Charts Doctors use body mass index (BMI) measurements to assess a child's physical growth in relation to other kids the same age. Here's how to calculate BMI and understand what the numbers mean.|
|Healthy Eating Good nutrition and a balanced diet help kids grow up healthy. Here's how to improve nutrition and encourage smart eating habits.|
|Overweight and Obesity The number of overweight and obese kids is growing at a phenomenal rate. Here's how you can help to overcome overweight and obesity in your own family.|
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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