|September 12, 2013
September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month
Youve probably read about it in newspapers and seen it on the news: in the United States, the number of obese children and teens has continued to rise over the past two decades before recently reaching a plateau. Nationally, 17 percent of all children and adolescents in America are obese, a rate that has tripled in one generation.
It is worse in Indian Country where, according to the Indian Health Service more than 80 percent of adults, ages 20 to 74 are overweight or obese. Many of them were obese as children where presently nearly 50 percent are not at a healthy weight. That is putting a strain on the American Indian healthcare system due to the large number of patients with diabetes, heart disease, cancer, orthopedic problems, depression and other such health problems including a shorter lifespan.
The well being of American Indians and Alaska Natives is affected by obesity, said Yvette Roubideaux, director of the Indian Health Service. Increases in weight have been linked to increased rates of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, stroke, cancer, asthma and other diseases.
Doctors and scientists are concerned by the trend. Parents and/or guardians of children should also be concerned and take steps to help prevent obesity in the children in their care.
The rise of obesity in children and youth because obesity may lead to the following health problems:
Heart disease, caused by: high cholesterol and/or high blood pressure
Type 2 diabetes
Childhood obesity is also associated with various health-related consequences. Obese children and adolescents may experience immediate health consequences and may be at risk for weight-related health problems in adulthood.
Some consequences of childhood and adolescent overweight are psychosocial. Obese children and adolescents are targets of early and systematic social discrimination. The psychological stress of social stigmatization can cause low self-esteem that, in turn, can hinder academic and social functioning, and persist into adulthood.
Cardiovascular Disease Risks
Obese children and teens have been found to have risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD), including high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, and abnormal glucose tolerance.
In a population-based sample of 5- to 17-year-olds, almost 60 percent of overweight children had at least one CVD risk factor while 25 percent of overweight children had two or more CVD risk factors.
Additional Health Risks
Less common health conditions associated with increased weight include asthma, hepatic steatosis, sleep apnea and type 2 diabetes.
Asthma is a disease of the lungs in which the airways become blocked or narrowed causing breathing difficulty. Studies have identified an association between childhood overweight and asthma.
Hepatic steatosis is the fatty degeneration of the liver caused by a high concentration of liver enzymes. Weight reduction causes liver enzymes to normalize.
Sleep apnea is a less common complication of overweight for children and adolescents. Sleep apnea is a sleep-associated breathing disorder defined as the cessation of breathing during sleep that lasts for at least 10 seconds. Sleep apnea is characterized by loud snoring and labored breathing. During sleep apnea, oxygen levels in the blood can fall dramatically. One study estimated that sleep apnea occurs in about 7 percent of overweight children.
Type 2 diabetes is increasingly being reported among children and adolescents who are overweight. While diabetes and glucose intolerance, a precursor of diabetes, are common health effects of adult obesity, only in recent years has type 2 diabetes begun to emerge as a health-related problem among children and adolescents. Onset of diabetes in children and adolescents can result in advanced complications such as CVD and kidney failure.
In addition, studies have shown that obese children and teens are more likely to become obese as adults.
Parents and guardians can help their children maintain a healthy weight by balancing the calories their children consume from foods and beverages with the calories their children use through physical activity and normal growth.
The goal for overweight and obese children and teens is to reduce the rate of weight gain while allowing normal growth and development. However, children and teens should not be placed on a weight reduction diet without the consultation of a health care provider.
One part of balancing calories is to eat foods that provide adequate nutrition and an appropriate number of calories. Parents and guardians can help their children learn to be aware of what they eat by developing healthy eating habits, looking for ways to make favorite dishes healthier, and reducing calorie-rich temptations.
Encourage healthy eating habits
To help your children and family develop healthy eating habits:
Provide plenty of vegetables, fruits, and whole-grain products.
Include low-fat or non-fat milk or dairy products.
Choose lean meats, poultry, fish, lentils, and beans for protein.
Serve reasonably-sized portions.
Encourage your family to drink lots of water.
Limit sugar-sweetened beverages.
Limit consumption of sugar and saturated fat.
Remove calorie-rich temptations
Although everything can be enjoyed in moderation, reducing the calorie-rich temptations of high-fat and high-sugar, or salty snacks can also help your children develop healthy eating habits. Instead only allow your children to eat them sometimes, so that they truly will be treats.
Examples of easy-to-prepare, low-fat and low-sugar treats that are 100 calories or less:
A medium-size apple
A medium-size banana
One cup of blueberries
One cup of grapes
One cup of carrots, broccoli, or bell peppers with two tablespoon of hummus
Balancing calories: Help kids stay active
Another part of balancing calories is to engage in an appropriate amount of physical activity and avoid too much sedentary time. In addition to being fun for children and teens, regular physical activity has many health benefits, including:
Decreasing blood pressure
Reducing stress and anxiety
Helping with weight management
Help kids stay active
Children and teens should participate in at least 60 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity most days of the week, preferably daily. Children imitate adults so they (adults) should start adding physical activity to their own daily routine and encourage their children to join them.
Examples of moderate intensity physical activity include:
Reduce sedentary time
In addition to encouraging physical activity, help children avoid too much sedentary time. Although quiet time for reading and homework is fine, limit the time children watch television, play video games, or surf the web to no more than two hours per day. Additionally, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) does not recommend television viewing for children age 2 or younger. Instead, encourage your children to find fun activities to do with family members or on their own that simply involve more activity.
For more information, visit websites: http://www.choosemyplate.gov or http://ihs.gov/healthyweight