Abdominal obesity statistics show that the number of children and teenagers struggling with excessive bodyweight is on the rise, according to the August 2014 issue of the Childhood Obesity journal. The prevalence of serious weight concerns at younger ages gives parents and teachers motivation to pay attention to the research showing that instilling an habitual mindset of healthy lifestyle choices from childhood can prevent the onset of many serious health consequences. This epidemic of childhood obesity is a major health concern, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) because it can lead to diabetes mellitus type 2, cancer and heart disease.
The CDC and other health organizations are banding together during the month of September to raise awareness of the problem of childhood obesity. Their aim is to educate parents and schools on effective ways to prevent and address the health risk caused by surplus adipose fat in children. The myriad of preventable health issues associated with childhood abdominal obesity can lead to an ongoing decrease in quality of life as the child moves toward adulthood carrying a habit of unhealthy lifestyle choices. The CDC recommends that parents, teachers and caregivers begin instilling a mindset of healthy living through diet and exercise from an early age to prevent health complications later on.
The study, entitled Pediatric Severe Obesity: Time to Establish Serious Treatments for a Serious Disease, reports that 6 percent of children and teenagers in the U.S. are struggling with severe obesity and the situation is only intensifying over time. Severe obesity in childhood shows a marked increase in the risk of high blood pressure, triglycerides, inflammation, lower HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol), glucose tolerance, diabetes, sleep apnea, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and musculoskeletal complications.
Healthier Kids, Brighter Futures states that the rate of childhood obesity has quadrupled in children ages six to 11 in the past 40 years, affecting over 23 million children and adolescents. The CDC asserts that this puts about one in five U.S. children at risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure. In addition, children who struggle with their weight are often the targets of stigma and bullying, which leave emotional and mental scars.
Sedentary family or personal habits, such as TV watching, video and computer games, are major influences in the increasing occurrence of obesity in children and teenagers. Further complicating factors include a lack of structure around bedtime causing sleep deprivation, inadequate access to places for physical exercise, dependence on calorie-laden snacks and economic issues that limit access to healthy foods. Struggles with obesity that start in childhood are more likely to continue into adulthood. The early onset wears on the body long-term making it more likely that the child will experience complications at an earlier age.
However, the research shows that getting into the habit of making healthy lifestyle choices from a young age has significant preventive power. It decreases the risk of excess abdominal obesity moving from a childhood issue to a chronic, debilitating condition. The earlier parents and teachers start instilling the mindset of healthy eating and regular exercise, the better chance children have of dodging the bullet of childhood obesity.
Parents can make a habit of serving food with high nutritional content and lower calories. The CDC recommends that parents model a pattern of fruits, vegetables and water for snacks instead of high calorie, sugar and fat laden foods. Caregivers and teachers can also play a role in encouraging children to eat healthy and giving them ample opportunity to establish an exercise habit.
The CDC further advocates for regular sleeping patterns and decreased screen time, whether TV, computer or video games. The longer parents, teachers and caregivers wait to begin prevention and intervention measures, the more difficult it becomes to overcome the issue without surgical measures, according to the Childhood Obesity study. Nonetheless, when home, school and childcare providers cooperate and work from the same page of prevention, there is hope for the future. By making nutritious food, drinks and exercise a normal part of every child’s routine, parents, teachers and caregivers up the odds of reversing the trend of childhood abdominal obesity and raising children who make healthy lifestyle choices as a matter of course.
by Tamara Christine Van Hooser
Healthier Kids, Brighter Futures