by Dr. Brent Jensen, Sacred Heart Pediatrics
All children gain weight as they grow and develop. However, putting on more weight than is needed to support growth and development can lead to childhood obesity. Over the past 30 years, the number of children with weight problems in the United States has risen at an alarming rate. Today, 1 in 3 children and teens is overweight or obese — putting them at risk for developing health problems such as early onset puberty, as well as conditions that were once only seen in adults, including: type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or bone and joint problems.
The good news is that early intervention can protect the health of your child now and in the future.
Understanding how children become overweight is an important step toward breaking the cycle. Although there can be some genetic or hormonal causes of childhood obesity, most weight gain is caused by children eating too much and exercising too little.
It’s easy for children to eat too much when they:
What Parents Can Do
The number one risk factor for childhood obesity is having a parent who is obese. Children who have one obese parent are 50 percent more likely to become obese themselves. Those with two overweight parents are 75 percent more likely to become obese. The key to keeping children of all ages at a healthy weight is to lead by example and get the whole family involved.
You play a huge role in helping your child live a healthy life and at all ages, even as early as birth. Some tips include:
Unraveling the Childhood Obesity Problem
In order to solve the problem of childhood obesity, we must treat it on many levels. The child must be educated and helped to make healthy choices. Parents must become involved by setting a good example and creating a family atmosphere that fosters good eating habits and physical activity. The community must be encouraged to create environments that increase physical activity and healthy eating among its citizens. For example promoting the availability of fresh produce through neighborhood markets or the creation of safe playgrounds, parks, and walking trails. Finally, the federal government must become involved with programs like Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign.
It will take us all working together to help our next generation become and remain healthy.
Dr. Brent Jensen is a board certified pediatrician with Sacred Heart Pediatrics. His goal is to help children grow strong and healthy.