American Hospital Blog

Childhood obesity

Childhood obesity

Childhood obesity is an overweight issue that affects children and adolescents. The extra pounds in children are often causing health problems in kids from a young age.

Ailments like diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure, often linked with adult age, may start in children due to excess weight issues. Childhood obesity also results in the child feeling depressed and have poor self-esteem.

Introducing healthy eating habits in children and adopting a good exercise routine helps fight childhood obesity, preventing the kid's health from serious diseases now and in the future.

Understand the symptoms

Children with a larger than average body frame may naturally carry extra pounds, but that is not overweight. Children at the various stages of development typically have different amounts of body fat. So, knowing when the child's body weight is a health concern can be challenging.

However, the body mass index (BMI) provides this guideline, comparing weight with height, and is an accepted measure of overweight and obesity. The child's doctor uses growth charts, BMI measures, and some other tests if deemed necessary to help you analyze whether your child's weight is a signal of health problems.

Consult the doctor

Talk to your child's doctor if your child's weight gain is causing concern. The doctor will diagnose his condition, considering the child's history of growth and development, family's weight-for-height history, and determine where your child lands on the growth charts. It will help identify whether your child's weight is in an unhealthy range or a cause for worry.

Know the causes

Lifestyle issues are the leading cause of weight issues in kids, like too little activity and too many calories from food and drinks may contribute to childhood obesity. Even genetic and hormonal factors play a part in childhood obesity. 

Recognise the risk

Multiple factors can put children at the risk of becoming overwwight:

• Diet. Bad eating habits in daily life, like consuming high-calories - fast foods, vending machine snacks or baked items may lead to weight gain problems. Candy and desserts, sugary drinks, including fruit juices and sports drinks, are some of the leading causes of obesity in children.
• Lack of exercise. Children not doing regular workouts and excessive sedentary activities, including watching television or playing video games, all contribute to gaining weight as the body does not burn calories.
• Family factors. Hereditary factors also contribute to a child being overweight, especially when high-calorie foods are readily available and physical activity is not supported.
• Psychological factors. Any stress - personal, parental, and family can provoke the child to overeat to deal with problems or cope with emotions, like stress, or fight boredom.
• Socioeconomic factors. Limited resources or access to supermarkets may lead them to buy convenience foods that don't spoil quickly, like frozen meals, crackers and cookies.
• Certain medications. Some medicine raises the risk of developing obesity, like prednisone, lithium, amitriptyline, paroxetine (Paxil), gabapentin and more.

Associated complexities

Childhood obesity induces complications in a child's physical, social and emotional well-being.

Physical complications may include the risk of medical conditions like type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. It may lead to heart attack or stroke risk later in life. Poor diet, sedentary activities may raise the risk of developing a critical health condition. Extra weight issues also cause joint pain and breathing problems.

Social and emotional complications may include children dealing with teasing or bullying by their peers, affecting their self-esteem and increasing the chance of experiencing depression and anxiety.

Measures for prevention

• Prevent excess weight gain in your child by adopting healthy eating and regular physical activity and workout sessions.
• Switch to healthy snacks options for children such as air-popped popcorn without butter, fruits with low-fat yogurt, whole-grain cereal with low-fat milk. It usually takes time for children to accept a new food routine, so be patient.
• Never promise to give candy or other food items rewards for good behavior; instead, pick nonfood items as prizes for kids.
• Ensure the child gets enough sleep as too little sleep may increase the risk of obesity, leading to increased appetite.
• Take your child for regular checkups at least once a year, wherein you get the kids BMI calculated. A significant rise in your child's BMI over one year may indicate the child being at risk of becoming overweight.

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