Childhood obesity is a serious medical condition where excess body fat is accumulated in the body affecting a child's health or well-being.
The extra pounds stored in the body by children may lead to health problems like diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol which were considered as adult problems.
Childhood obesity can also lead to poor self-esteem and depression.
Some children are overweight and some have larger than average body frames. Children normally carry different amounts of body fat at the various stages of development. The body mass index (BMI), which provides a guideline of weight in relation to height, is the accepted measure of obesity.
Analysing the BMI and doing other routine tests helps the doctor to figure out whether the child is obese or overweight.
Treating and preventing childhood obesity will help in protecting your child's health and thereby keeping the child away from dreadful diseases.
Family history, psychological factors and lifestyle all play a major role in childhood obesity. Children who have a family history of obesity are more likely to follow the trend, but the main cause is a combination of eating too much with less or no physical activity.
DIET : - A poor diet containing high levels of fat or sugar and few nutrients can cause kids to gain weight quickly. Fast food, candy and soft drinks are the common culprits.
LACK OF EXERCISE :- Children who don't exercise much are more likely to gain weight as they don't burn as many calories. Too much time is spent in sedentary activities, such as watching television or playing video games.
PSYCHOLOGICAL FACTORS :- Personal, parental and family stress can increase a child's risk of obesity. Kids and teens who are bored, stressed or feel depressed may eat more to cope with negative emotions which leads to weight gain.
SOCIOECONOMIC FACTORS:- Some people have limited resources and limited access to supermarkets. As a result, they buy convenience food products that don't spoil quickly, such as frozen meals, crackers and cookies and store them.
Children who are obese have a higher risk of developing health problems than their peers who maintain a healthy weight.
They are affected physically as well as mentally.
Physical complications of childhood obesity may include:
Type 2 diabetes is a condition where in the body doesn’t metabolize glucose properly. Children and adults who are overweight are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes. Diabetes can lead to eye problems, nerve damage and kidney dysfunction. However, the condition may be reversible through diet and lifestyle changes.
High cholesterol and high blood pressure raise the risk of future heart disease in children with obesity. Foods that are high in fat and salt may cause cholesterol and blood pressure levels to rise.
These factors can contribute to the build up of plaques in the arteries, which can cause arteries to narrow and harden, possibly leading to a heart attack or stroke later in life.
Asthma is more common in children who are overweight. These children are also more likely to develop obstructive sleep apnea, a potentially serious disorder in which a child's breathing repeatedly stops and starts during sleep.
Extra weight causes extra stress on the hips and knees. Childhood obesity can cause pain and sometimes injuries in the hips, knees and back.
Non alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)
This disorder, which usually causes no symptoms, causes fatty deposits to build up in the liver. NAFLD can lead to scarring and liver damage.
Social and emotional complications faced by children
Children who have obesity may experience teasing or bullying by their peers. This can result in loss of self-esteem and an increased risk of depression and anxiety.
To help prevent excess weight gain in your child, a few simple steps can be followed.
1. Eating healthy and nutritious food
Changing the eating habits of children with obesity is absolutely essential.
Most kids eat what their parents buy, so healthy eating needs to start with parents. We, as parents, should set an example in front of kids so that they too follow a healthy eating pattern.
Making healthy eating and regular physical activity should be a family affair so that everyone can benefit.
2. Healthy snacks should be kept handy and made easily available
Some healthy snacks like air-popped popcorn without butter, fruits, dry fruits, nuts and seeds should be kept at a place where they can be accessed easily.
New recipes should be tried including proteins, green leafy vegetables so that the kid gets the required nutrition.
3. Encourage the child to get enough sleep
Some studies indicate that too little sleep may increase the risk of obesity. Sleep deprivation can cause hormonal imbalances that lead to increased appetite.
4. Increase Physical Activity
Parents should inculcate the habit of exercising and should encourage the child to shed those extra kilos by performing simple exercises daily.
Children enjoy more when they see their parents accompany them in their activities.
5. Help the children in cutting down their screen time
Kids who spend several hours a day watching television, playing computer games, or using their smartphones or other devices are more likely to gain weight. So instead of watching television for hours, the kids should be encouraged to keep themselves engaged in reading books.
Childhood obesity is a serious issue but with proper education and support, children can learn healthier ways to cope with their problems and stay active.
This support must come from parents, teachers and other caregivers. Help your children to stay healthier for a longer period by preparing nutritious foods for them and encouraging them to get plenty of exercises.
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