Many parents and guardians worry about their children’s health, especially with regard to weight management and child obesity, as it affects over 14 million children in the U.S. The CDC defines childhood obesity as any child or teen with a Body Mass Index (BMI) in the 95th percentile or higher for their age and gender group.
In this post, we’ll explore the causes of childhood obesity and its potential health risks. We’ll also examine the long-term ramifications of the condition and provide tips for families about how to help prevent it. Plus, we’ll share information about where to get help from Western Washington Medical Group if someone in your family is at risk.
Causes of Childhood Obesity
There is not one specific cause for childhood obesity; like adults, kids can reach an unhealthy weight due to multiple factors.
Poor Nutrition. If children aren’t eating balanced, healthy meals, but instead are living on processed foods and drinks high in sugar and calories, they will be more susceptible to weight gain.
Sedentary Lifestyle. Kids are meant to be active, engaged in play and physical activities that keep their body moving. If they spend all of their time in front of screens, sitting or laying instead of walking or playing sports, they’re more likely to become overweight.
Community Influence. Children in a lower socio-economic household may not have access to healthy foods, which can increase the likelihood of child obesity. There are also other environmental factors such as the food provided by schools or programs, or the lack of time dedicated to physical activity, which the child may have no control over.
Genetic Makeup. Some factors of childhood obesity aren’t behavioral. Many are born with bodies that metabolize foods slowly or could have a specific disorder that make their bodies gain weight easily.
Health Risks at an Early Age
Children who suffer from childhood obesity are more likely to suffer from a variety of issues, including:
- Heart Disease
- High Blood Pressure
- Low Self-esteem
- Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis (a liver issue that can lead to cirrhosis)
- Sleep Apnea
Girls who have reached puberty may also have irregular menstruation as a result of childhood obesity.
Long-term Effects of Childhood Obesity
Those who are obese during childhood often remain so through adulthood, which can cause even more severe long-term harm to the body.
Adults who are obese are more at risk for diabetes, coronary heart disease, atherosclerosis, hip fractures, gout and psychological issues. In some cases, an increased risk for cancer is also possible.
Tips for Parents
Helping kids develop healthy habits is a great way to prevent childhood obesity. Here are a few ways to encourage good behaviors that will aid in keeping children physically fit:
Serve Healthy Foods. Unless it’s a special occasion, try to always serve meals with high nutrient value that are rich with vegetables, whole grains and protein. Also, be sure that the snacks you have available are nutritious, such as fresh fruits or nuts.
Connect at Meal Times. Sit down and eat with your children during meal times so they’re not rushing through their courses, and so you can monitor portion control if need be.
Limit Screen Time. Allow designated hours for television and video games, but also set aside specific times for outside play or family activities like bike riding or hiking, which promote regular exercise in a fun setting.
Consult with a Medical Professional
If you’d like the advice of a doctor or help with nutrition counseling and weight management for your child(ren), schedule an appointment with the Diabetes & Nutrition Education Center. With offices in Bothell, Everett, Marysville, Snohomish and Arlington, plus TeleHealth options that can serve you from virtually anywhere, the team is available to meet with you and your child(ren) wherever you find it most convenient.
If you have more general inquiries for Western Washington Medical Group, complete the form on this page.