Obesity is dangerous enough with adults but the health problem of obese child can be even more frightening because they are showing up much earlier in life. What used to be considered almost exclusively the health problems of middle age are now becoming very common in younger children and teens.
If a child has too much body fat they are considered obese. A child is considered obese if their body mass index (BMI) is in the 95 percentile, or above, for their age and gender. While some obesity can be genetic the vast majority of overweight children are overweight for the same reasons so many adults are: too much of the wrong types of food and not enough exercise.
Just like with overweight adults, obese children are very prone to many health issues:
1. High blood pressure and high cholesterol. These two health issues are the leading cause of heart disease and an obese child is far more likely to have heart disease when they reach early adulthood! Again, what used to be considered more of a middle age ailment will often strike an obese child in their early twenties or thirties. A recent study found that obese children had the same type of plaque buildup in their arteries as what a 45 year old would have.
2. Children who are obese also have a much higher chance of developing onset diabetes. A study found that obese children are up to two times more likely to have diabetes than children of the same age that weren’t overweight. This early onset of diabetes can mean a lifetime of health issues and can frequently cause kidney disease and even blindness.
3. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics up to 35 % of obese children have sleep apnea. This disorder causes someone to stop breathing for a few seconds at a time while they are asleep. Up until recently this was only found in adults. Sleep apnea can lead to many issues, the most obvious of which is not getting enough sleep. This lack of sleep in a child can cause difficulties in school and learning disabilities in a developing child.
4. Depression is also common in obese children. Obese children are often mocked and ridiculed by other kids at school which can lead to low self esteem and eventually behavioral problems and trouble in school.
Childhood obesity is a very serious medical, and emotional, issue and is certainly not something that should be ignored as ‘just a phase’. The good news is that many of the health problem of obese child can be reversed once the child loses weight.
It’s really not as hard as it may seem. Encourage your kid to go outside and play, everyday, for at least 30 minutes. Also getting rid of the fast food and processed food can help a lot. Kids will often mimic what they see their parents doing so you can get a two for one: you can spend more time exercising and eating right which will help your child to develop healthier habits and that way you’ll both benefit as well as share some great together time!