September is the time of year when families focus on children starting school and establishing new household routines, which makes it a great time to incorporate healthy lifestyle habits as a part of new daily routines.
Physical activity and healthy eating habits help combat childhood obesity. This is important because one in three children in the United States is overweight or obese. Childhood obesity puts kids at risk for health problems that were once seen only in adults, like Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
The immediate effects of obesity in children:
- Obese youth are more likely to have risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure. In a population-based sample of 5- to 17-year-olds, 70% of obese youth had at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
- Obese adolescents are more likely to have pre-diabetes, a condition in which blood glucose levels indicate a high risk for development of diabetes.
- Children and adolescents who are obese are at greater risk for bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, and social and psychological problems such as stigmatization and poor self-esteem.
Long-term health effects of childhood obesity include:
- Children and adolescents who are obese are likely to be obese as adults and are therefore more at risk for adult health problems such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, several types of cancer, and osteoarthritis. One study showed that children who became obese as early as age 2 were more likely to be obese as adults.
- Overweight and obesity are associated with increased risk for many types of cancer, including cancer of the breast, colon, endometrium, esophagus, kidney, pancreas, gall bladder, thyroid, ovary, cervix, and prostate, as well as multiple myeloma and Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
September is a perfect time to raise awareness about the obesity epidemic and show people how they can take steps toward a solution or making improvements in their own home. Here are just a few ideas:
- Encourage families to make small changes, like keeping fresh fruit within reach or going on a family walk after dinner.
- Motivate teachers and administrators to make schools healthier. Help them provide healthy food options and daily physical activities for students.
- Ask doctors and nurses to be leaders in their communities by supporting programs to prevent childhood obesity.