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What is childhood obesity?
Children who have a body mass index (BMI) at the same level or higher than 95 percent of their peers are considered to be obese. BMI is a tool that is used to determine your “weight status”. BMI is calculated using your height and weight. Your BMI percentile (where your BMI value falls in relation to other people) is then determined using your gender and age.
Childhood obesity is a serious medical condition that affects children and adolescents. It puts children at risk of the once considered adult problems like diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Moreover, childhood obesity can lead to poor self-esteem and depression.
What the causes of childhood obesity?
Family history, psychological factors, and lifestyle all play a role in childhood obesity. Children whose parents or family members are overweight are more like to be overweight. However, the main causes of childhood obesity is a combination of eating too much and exercising too little.
A poor diet containing high levels of fat or sugar and few nutrients can cause kids to gain weight quickly. Some of these poor diets are fast foods, candy, and soft drinks. Also, convenience foods such as frozen dinners, salty snacks, and canned pasta can also contribute to unhealthy weight gain. Many children become obese because their parents do not know how to choose or to prepare healthy foods. Other families may not be able to easily afford fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats.
Another cause of childhood obesity is not having enough physical activity. People of all ages tend to gain weight when they are less active. When you exercise, you burn calories and this helps you to maintain a healthy weight. Children who are not encouraged to be active may less likely burn extra calories through sports, time on the playground, or other forms of physical activity.
Psychological issues may also cause childhood obesity. This is mainly because kids who are stressed, bored, or depressed may eat more to cope with negative emotions.
Certain medications can increase the risk of developing obesity.
Health risks associated with childhood obesity.
Childhood obesity poses a higher risk of children developing health problems than their peers who maintain a healthy weight. Some of the serious health risks associated with childhood obesity are:
Type 2 diabetes is a condition in which your body does not metabolize glucose properly. Diabetes can lead to eye disease, nerve damage, and kidney dysfunction. This condition is more likely to develop in children and adults who are overweight but it is reversible through diet and lifestyle changes.
High cholesterol and high blood pressure.
A poor diet can cause your child to develop one or both of these conditions. They often lead to a buildup of plaques in the arteries which causes arteries to narrow and harden possibly leading to a heart attack.
High cholesterol and high blood pressure raise the risk of future heart disease in obese children. Foods with high levels of fat and salt may cause cholesterol and blood pressure levels to rise.
Asthma is a chronic inflammation of the lung’s airways. Research has shown that obesity is the most common comorbidity (when two diseases occur in the same person at the same time) with asthma, but the researchers are not sure how the two conditions are linked.
Children who are obese may also suffer from sleep disorders like excessive snoring and sleep apnea.
Extra weight causes extra stress on hips and knees which can lead to injuries in those areas.
Ways of preventing childhood obesity.
These are some of the ways that you can prevent excess weight gain in your child:
- Setting a good example.
- Having healthy snacks.
- Offer new foods multiple times.
- Choose non-food rewards.
- Ensuring your child gets enough sleep.
Treatment of childhood obesity.
Treatment of childhood obesity is based on your child’s age and whether he or she has other medical conditions. Treatments usually include changes in a child’s eating habits and physical activity. In some cases, treatment might include medications or weight-loss surgery.
In order to achieve healthy eating habits, you should:
- Prioritize fruits and vegetables.
- Limit sweetened beverages.
- Avoid fast food.
- Sit down together for family meals.
- Serve appropriate portion sizes.
To increase your child’s physical activity levels, you should:
- Limit TV time.
- Emphasize activity not exercise.
- Find activities your child likes.