Serious health risks tied to childhood obesity
About one in five children in the United States is considered obese. While there is no simple solution to this public health problem, there are ways to support children on their journey to good health.
September marks National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month and provides a chance to learn more about this serious health condition.
Children who are obese are at a higher risk for having other chronic health conditions and diseases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Those include asthma, sleep apnea, bone and joint problems and type 2 diabetes. They also have more risk factors for heart disease like high blood pressure and high cholesterol than their normal weight peers.
Children who are overweight or obese as preschoolers are five times as likely as normal-weight children to be overweight or obese as adults.
“Obesity in the United States is a problem. Specifically, the rate of obesity in children is alarming, and it’s growing,” said Eileen Dawley, RN, chief nursing officer. “Adults who are obese have a higher risk for diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart disease and many types of cancer.”
There are several factors that may lead to childhood obesity: too much time spent being inactive; lack of sleep; lack of places to go to get physical activity; easy access to inexpensive, high calorie foods and sugary beverages; and lack of access to affordable, healthier foods.
“Parents can help and set an example for their children. Choose nutritious meals with fruits and veggies and encourage your children to drink more water as a no-calorie alternative,” Dawley said.
Provide vegetables, fruits and whole-grain products and choose lean meats like poultry, fish, lentils and beans for protein. And, remember portion size. Make sure drinking water is always available as a no-calorie alternative to sugary beverages and limit juice intake. The idea is to balance calories from foods and beverages with the calories children use through physical activity and growth.
“Get active with your children. Find activities you enjoy as a family,” Dawley said. It’s important that children get the recommended amount of physical activity every day.”
Children age 2 and older should get at least 60 minutes of enjoyable, varied, moderate-intensity physical activity every day. Being active helps you prevent chronic diseases, improve heart and lung health, build strong bones and muscles, reduce fat, improve sleep, decrease stress, fight depression and increase your confidence and self-esteem.
“Small changes can make a difference. Together, we can all do our part to prevent childhood obesity,” Dawley said.