- Posted January 9, 2014 by
The Obesity Epidemic in Children and Adolescents
Why should we be so concerned about this rapidly spreading epidemic? We should be worried about the health risks involved. We are seeing more and more children and teenagers with high cholesterol, prediabetes, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, and social and psychological issues due to the stigmatization of being overweight. These kids will carry these risk factors into adulthood raising their risk of developing cardiovascular events, i.e. heart attacks and coronary artery disease. Over the past few years, I have been treating more teenagers for these problems. I have started many on medications for diabetes and high blood pressure. This is an age group that is not easy to convince about the need for taking these medications so they often get taken sporadically, if at all. This further increases their risk of adverse health problems down the road.
We all need to step in and stop this rising epidemic. Schools have made a concerted effort to make school lunches healthier and increase physical activity. But, they need to do more because this is not enough. Kids need more education about healthy lifestyles and the harm they are doing to their bodies by not adapting healthy behaviors. More importantly, it needs to start in the home. Parents are so busy these days and often don’t have time to prepare meals. Even so, we need to make the best choices for our kids regarding food. We are their role models whether they like it or not. I see many parents in my practice who tell me their kids only eat junk food or eat out all the time. When I ask the parents to get all the junk food out of their homes, many protest they like to eat it too. Healthy eating needs to be a family effort. It doesn’t mean we can never eat junk food or have to eat things we don’t like. We just need to moderate the unhealthy ones and make the healthy ones more common and palatable.
Also, activity needs to be a priority. An inactive lifestyle in itself is a risk factor for heart disease. Kids would much prefer to just sit on their computers all day. I’m sure many adults would too. But, we need to set aside time to have some physical activity every day. And we need to involve our kids in it. The aim for children should be 60 minutes of physical activity per day. It may sound like much but it doesn’t need to be done all at once. It should include both aerobic exercise and muscle strengthening exercises.
While the epidemic of obesity in kids is alarming, we can halt it. But we all need to take an active role in doing this, for the sake of our children and all children, for the sake of the future health of the country, and for our own sakes as well.