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Obesity and Children: What parents can do to Help

Obesity and Children: What parents can do to Help

The rate of childhood obesity in the U.S. has increased alarmingly. According to the CDC, the obesity rate in U.S. teens and children has tripled since 1980. The disease of obesity is complex and has many causes. Various factors, including poor nutrition, eating habits, lack of sleep, genetics, and emotional stress, can cause children's obesity. Conditions in which a child learns lives, and plays are also factors that can cause obesity. Sometimes, an overweight child is due to a specific disease or medication.

What is childhood obesity?

Obesity in children is defined by a BMI at or above the 95th percentile. Overweight is characterized by a BMI at or above the 95th percentile but below the 85th. A BMI between the 5th and 85th percentile is considered healthy.

These percentiles were calculated using CDC growth charts for children and teenagers ages 2 to 19. BMI for children and adolescents is age and gender-specific. BMI for age is often called this. It is not sufficient to calculate BMI for a long-term weight assessment. Your child's weight and height will change as they grow. Your child's doctor will use the BMI and other factors to determine weight status. Other factors include family history, blood glucose levels, blood pressure, and eating habits. You can calculate the BMI of your child.

Obesity and behavior

Obesity is a risk factor for children who consume too many calories, do not exercise enough, or get enough sleep. Children may only have limited access to fruits and vegetables. Some children, especially those in low-income areas, may not have access to healthy foods like fruits and vegetables. Many children need more physical exercise. Children spend more time watching TV, playing games on their phones, and other screen-time activities. Parents can help their children by making positive changes in their lives.

  •    Get your family moving more.Children aged 3 to 5 years old should be active all day. Active play, such as tricycle riding or skipping, is included. Children ages 6 to 17 should do at least 60 minutes of medium-to-high-intensity physical activity every day. You can participate in fun aerobic exercises like tag or jumping rope. Being physically active can set an excellent example for your kids. Exercise should be a daily part of your routine. Take your family on a walk, dance, bike, or play an outdoor game as often as possible.
  •    Establish a regular sleep schedule. A good night's sleep can help prevent disease. Type 2 diabetes, obesity, attention problems, and behavioral issues are all included. Sleep deprivation can lead to unhealthy weight gain in children. Remove screens from the child's bedroom. At least one hour before going to bed, stop using screens. Even on weekends, maintain a regular sleep schedule. It can help your child sleep better.
  • As a family, you can encourage your children to eat healthier. Healthy foods and nutrients include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean proteins, and low-fat or fat-free dairy. Avoid sodas and chips at home. You can also limit their consumption to extraordinary occasions. Serve your kid's kid-friendly snacks. Fruit smoothies, raw vegetables with yogurt dip, and celery with nut butter are all good options. Frozen options are a great alternative to fresh fruit and vegetables.
  •    Be aware of portion sizes.Food portions in grocery stores and restaurants have exploded in the past few decades. Be sure that the portion sizes of the food you serve your children are within the USDA guidelines for the food groups. One serving of grains, for example, is a half cup of spaghetti or one regular slice of toast. One serving of protein equals half a small lean chicken breast or a small hamburger patty.
  •    Limit screen time.Too many screen hours can cause poor sleep, weight gain, poor grades at school, and mental health problems in children. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests creating a media plan for your family to help you set priorities. This plan prioritizes health, academic, and social goals. Next, media usage time is discussed. You can create your own media plan using AAP's site.
  • Focus on your health and not your body's appearance. Blaming or feeling guilty about your body size or shape is not helpful. This is not only harmful but can also affect the treatment's success. As with other chronic illnesses such as asthma and diabetes, treatment for obesity should be based on improving overall health and life quality. Treatment goals can include improving self-esteem, reducing school absences, and participating in walkathons.

Obesity and medical causes

Certain illnesses or inherited conditions can cause children to become overweight. Speak to your child's doctor if you are concerned about a medical reason for increased weight gain. Some examples include:

  •    Prader Willi syndrome.An inherited disorder that causes feelings of insatiable hunger and a metabolism that burns fewer calories than usual. Low levels of sex hormones and poor muscle strength are also symptoms. Early diagnosis can help parents prevent their children from becoming obese.
  •    Cushing Syndrome.The disease is most common in adults aged between 20 and 50. But it can happen in children. Children with Cushing Syndrome have a slower growth rate but a faster weight gain. Acne, stretch marks, skin bruising, moon face, or fatigue can identify Cushing syndrome. The syndrome is caused by prolonged exposure to cortisol in the body, a hormone that regulates stress. Tumors release extra cortisol in the pituitary or adrenal glands or through the overuse of steroids. Treatment for Cushing syndrome can include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and medications. Speak to your child's doctor if you suspect your child has the condition.
  •    Hypothyroidism.Low thyroid activity is the cause of this condition. It controls the rate at which the body burns calories. Hypothyroidism can cause children to be slower in growing and develop later. Weight gain is less common in children with hypothyroidism than short stature and delayed growth. The skin may be pale, and they might feel tired. Hypothyroidism can be treated with medicines that restore normal thyroid hormone levels. Your child's doctor can detect this condition.

Obesity and medicine use

Certain medicines can cause children to become overweight. Speak to your child's doctor if you are concerned about a medication causing weight gain. Some examples include:

  • Antidepressants
  • Steroids
  • Birth control, including injected forms
  • Children with diabetes and their medications
  • Psychosis medicines
  • Medicines for seizures

Medical Reviewers

  • Amy Finke RN BSN
  • Liora C Adler MD
  • Raymond Kent Turley BSN MSN Rn


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