Prevention Begins in ChildhoodObesity in children has risen dramatically worldwide. Worldwide, an estimated 1 in 10 children is overweight, a total of 155 million. Of those children, 30-45 million are obese. By 2010, nearly half of the children in North and South America and about 38% of the children in the European Union will be overweight.
Health professionals are deeply concerned about the rise in childhood obesity because children's bodies are still in the process of developing. Because of this, obesity is even more dangerous to children than it is to adults. Being overweight when young seems to be more destructive to almost every major organ than being overweight when older - and the damage is probably irreversible. Childhood obesity is particularly grave because it leads to serious medical conditions once seen almost exclusively in adults: diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and gallstones. Sleep apnea, thought to be linked with learning and memory problems, is common among obese children, as are orthopedic problems, liver disease, and asthma.
Investigators using ultrasound imaging have detected fatty deposits in the arteries of children as young as 10- deposits that are more typical of middle-aged adults than of children. The fatty deposits present the possibility that children may develop heart disease decades earlier than once thought possible. If, as the saying goes, "You're as old as your arteries," then obese children are at serious risk for heart disease and even death during their childhoods.
As overweight children move into their adult years, experts fear an epidemic of heart disease, strokes, cancer, and other health problems. Overweight adolescents have a 70% chance of growing up to be overweight or obese adults.
Many factors have contributed to the childhood obesity epidemic: decreasing physical activity, consumption of high-calorie food, and increasingly easy availability of food.
You can help treat or prevent childhood obesity by:
- Encouraging your child to eat healthy foods and to play and exercise outdoors
- Being a good role model by eating wisely and exercising regularly
- Not using food as a reward or punishment
- Taking your child to a pediatrician for well-child visits regularly
- Being patient
- Encouraging your child's school to serve healthy foods and provide adequate time for physical exercise
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Copyright 2007, Emer & Sam
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Prevention Begins in Childhood
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