From the sedentary lifestyle fostered by television, video games and electronic toy usage to a commercially-produced food landscape that markets sugar and fat-laden products to very young children, obesity has become a problem among even the youngest Americans. In fact, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that childhood obesity rates have doubled over the last 30 years. Along with the rising numbers of overweight children come a host of attendant health risks, some of which were once thought to exclusively affect adults.
- Cardiovascular Disease – High blood pressure and high cholesterol are typically considered obesity-attendant conditions for overweight adults, but they can affect children who are overweight or obese, too. The CDC states that up to 70% of obese children between the ages of five and 17 years old exhibited at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease. 39% of kids studied exhibited two or more of those risk factors.
- Type Two Diabetes – Kids who are obese or overweight have a higher risk of impaired glucose tolerance, type two diabetes and insulin resistance than their peers who are not overweight. The majority of people diagnosed with type two diabetes are over the age of 40, but the CDC states that the prevalence of the disease among obese youth is rising.
- Breathing Problems – Childhood obesity is often related to sedentary lifestyle habits and a lack of physical activity, which can become a difficult trend to reverse when obesity begins to affect kids’ breathing. Sleep apnea and asthma are not uncommon conditions among overweight and obese children, and can make it more difficult for kids to make a lifestyle change when problems with breathing affect their ability to increase physical activity levels.
- Joint Pain – Another obesity-related affliction that can make lifestyle changes even more difficult is the probability of joint pain and musculoskeletal discomfort.
- Internal Health Problems – When kids are overweight or obese, they’re at a higher risk for gallstones, gastro-esophageal reflux and fatty liver disease. These internal health issues can have serious long-term implications.
- Adult Obesity – Obesity and being overweight during childhood increases a person’s likelihood of battling the same weight problems well into adulthood, where health risks and obesity-related conditions often become more severe. Heart disease, diabetes and even some cancers can be concerns for obese adults.
- Psychological Health Problems – Kids who are overweight or obese are more likely to experience discrimination and ostracism from their peer group, to suffer from poor self-esteem that often continues into adulthood and to have socialization or psychological problems.
University of California Los Angeles researchers conducted a large-scale, population-based study of American children to create associations between obesity and it’s affects during childhood. They found that there are a wide range of problems that can accompany obesity or being overweight in children. That research indicates that obese kids are reported to have poorer overall health than their non-obese peers. Also, those kids have a greater likelihood of emotional and behavioral problems, are more likely to repeat a grade, miss more school than their non-overweight counterparts and tend to suffer from learning disabilities more frequently. Developmental delays, ear infections, allergies, headaches, conduct disorder, depression and ADHD also tend to accompany obesity.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that kids have no more than two hours of screen time each day. This should include not only time spent watching television, but also time spent online or playing video games. Instead, it’s best to encourage physically active play for the majority of the day and to establish good dietary habits in children starting at a very young age. Before putting an overweight or obese child on any sort of a diet, however, you should always consult his pediatrician to ensure that he’ll be getting the nutrients he needs and to see that his relationship with food won’t become complicated or problematic.
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