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Childhood Obesity and Heart Disease

By Charles Hopkins Published 11/27/2007 | Fitness
Overweight children and adolescents have significantly increased during the past decade. There are times during childhood and adolescence where one is more susceptible to weight gain, but these times also offer prevention opportunities for obesity.

Obesity is defined by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) according to body mass index (BMI). Several health risks arise from a child being overweight, such as type-2 diabetes, sleep apnea, hypertension, and heart disease. Fortunately approaches to counter childhood obesity have been clinically recognized, including behavioral, pharmacological, and surgical.

The prospect of morbid short- and long-term outcomes make childhood obesity a major public concern. The increase of adult obesity has been correlated to the increase of childhood obesity. Other countries such as Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, China, Germany, and France have reported increases of childhood obesity as well. Parents who are suspect a problem can check by having a doctor or pediatrician measure the child's height and weight to see if they are in a healthy range.

As instances of childhood obesity increase, there is alarming evidence that these children will be predisposed to heart disease later in life. The American heart Association (AHA) has issued statements on the importance of preventing obesity for this reason. The AHA has also urged physicians to be proactive in identifying the development of obesity and health conditions such as type-2 diabetes and glucose intolerance.

Today's fast-paced, sedentary, fast food lifestyles entice children to build their lives around a steady diet of fatty and fried meals, much of which can e blamed for obesity. The onslaught of obesity places children at risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, resistance to insulin, and a heightened risk for heart disease. Research has also proven obesity in adults leads to hardening of the arteries, heart disease, strokes, angina, and heart attacks.

Despite this, relatively little is truly known about the importance of these adult issues in childhood. Atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) begins in childhood and progresses throughout one's life. But there has been very little research or interest in childhood heart disease, so unfortunately there is correspondingly little information available for parents.

Research for the treatment of obesity has been relatively limited, especially when compared to the epidemic rise in weight gain. So the most important prevention that a parent can make is to introduce healthy eating habits to their children and avoid overfeeding infants. Children should not be given food as a reward or incentive because they learn to use it as a stress reliever. On the other hand, children ought not be deprived of food they need since they could wind up adopting negative feelings about the experience and later develop an eating disorder.

Training on the basic food groups and proper servings will benefit children as well. For instance, snacks that include healthy foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and grains should be high priorities. And proper diet ought to be paired with exercise that gets the entire body involved. Good options would be biking, swimming, and walking.

Obesity treatment programs that prove to be successful include:

Treatment before adolescence

Willingness on the part of both the children and the rest of the family to participate

Education of families about the complications of obesity

Involving the entire family in healthy eating habits is a great way to help one's child not feel awkward. For example, healthy eating can be encouraged by parents providing more vegetables and fruits, and conversely reducing the number of sodas and high fat, high calorie junk foods.