Childhood obesity is a serious medical condition that affects children and adolescents. It’s particularly troubling because the extra pounds often start children on the path to health problems that were once considered adult problems — diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Childhood obesity can also lead to poor self-esteem and depression. Childhood obesity is a complex disease that can occur when your child is above a healthy weight for their age and height.
Sign & Symptoms –
In addition to excessive body weight, typical signs and symptoms of childhood obesity include –
• Shortness of breath
• Increased sweating
• Sleep apnea and snoring
• Joint pain
• Dislocated hips
• Flat feet and knock knees
• Skin rashes and irritation
• Stretch marks on hips, abdomen, and back (though these can occur in non-obese children as well)
• Acanthosis nigricans, which is dark, velvety skin around the neck and in other areas
• Fat tissue in the breast area (which can be particularly challenging for boys)
• Gastroesophageal reflux (also called acid reflux)
• Early puberty in girls
• Delayed puberty in boys
Reasons why more and more children are becoming obese include –
• Behavioral factors: eating bigger portions, eating foods that are calorie-rich but nutrient poor (junk foods), spending lots of time in front of the television or computer, and spending too little time doing physical activities
• Environmental factors: easy access to high-calorie junk foods, few opportunities for physical activity, lack of parks and playgrounds in some communities
• Genetics factors: A child is at increased risk for obesity when at least one parent is obese. However, genes do not necessarily mean a child is destined to be overweight — there are several steps a child can take to lower his risk.
• Medications: steroids, some antidepressants, and others
• Medical conditions: Genetic syndromes like Prader-Willi, and hormonal conditions like hypothyroidism are among the medical disorders that can cause obesity.
Children who have obesity are at a higher risk of developing many physical health conditions. These conditions include –
• Sleep apnea.
• Type 2 diabetes.
• High blood pressure (hypertension).
• High cholesterol.
• Heart disease.
• Musculoskeletal disorders such as osteoarthritis.
• Certain cancers, including colon cancer and breast cancer.
• Fatty liver.
In addition, children who have obesity are at a higher risk of experiencing some psychological problems –
• Social isolation.
• Low self-esteem.
Childhood obesity can be diagnosed when a child’s BMI is at or above the 95th percentile of the CDC sex-specific BMI-for-age growth charts. Being in the 95th percentile means that compared with other children the same age and sex, your child has a higher BMI than 95% of them.
Cutoff points on these growth charts, established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, help classify the severity of a child’s weight problem:
• BMI between 85th and 94th percentiles — overweight
• BMI 95th percentile or above — obesity
• BMI 99th percentile or higher — severe obesity
Children grow at different rates, however, so BMI alone can sometimes be misleading. To make a diagnosis, a health care provider will generally take into account other factors such as:
• Any weight-related symptoms or health conditions the child is experiencing
• Family history of obesity
• Activity level
• Dietary habits
• Sleep patterns
• Mental health or psychological conditions
• Physical exam results, including vital signs like heart rate and blood pressure
• Results of lab tests for cholesterol, blood sugar, hormone levels, and thyroid function
Prevention of childhood obesity is vital, especially since we know that the treatment of obesity is extremely difficult.At this point, prevention is the best way! This means eating a healthful diet based on vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole (instead of refined) grains, protein, and healthy fats. Also, maintain an active lifestyle by aiming to getting an hour of physical activity a day.
Proven and simple strategies to prevent obesity that can help your child to maintain a healthy weight include –
• protecting the home environment: stocking your home with only healthful foods so that your child is not tempted to snack on unhealthful ones
• role modeling: parents who eat a healthful diet and maintain an active lifestyle will set a positive example for their child
• serving water instead of sugar-sweetened drinks
• offering age-appropriate portion sizes and keeping serving platters and bowls off the table to avoid overeating
• limiting screen time to two hours a day (TV, computer, and video games)
• not using food as a reward for good behavior, academic achievement, or eating a healthful food
For more informative articles on Children health and other health related issues, please visit our website www.santripty.com and also YouTube channel https://youtube.com/@santripty and feel free to consult with our experienced team of doctors, get benefits and stay healthy.
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