• Type 2 diabetes
• Sleep problems, including sleep apnea
• Bone problems due to an inability of the developing bones to support the excess weight
• Hypertension (high blood pressure)
• Heart disease
Additionally, teenage obesity can lead to psychological problems associated with negative body image and social issues associated with being treated as an outcast. It is estimated that the societal costs of obesity are almost $100 billion PER YEAR.
The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) has an excellent site that discusses what obesity and lists some of the causes (click here). While poor eating habits and lack of exercise are critical factors, family history of obesity and medical illnesses also contribute. Many children today are placed on a number of psychiatric medications (for example, antidepressants or medications for attention deficit hyperactive disorder) that can cause weight gain. So it’s important to ensure that medical causes of obesity are ruled out.
Once again I will point to folks to the WeCan! (Ways to Enhance Children’s Activity & Nutrition) website from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. The site contains excellent background information about the childhood obesity public health crisis and strategies that you can implement in your household.
Here are a few additional suggestions:
1. Get the entire family involved. Parents, grandparents, aunts/uncles MUST set the example. This includes making healthier food choices and finding ways to increase physical activity. Plan family activities that can get everyone moving. A simple walk after dinner or if your neighborhood feels unsafe, how about turning on the radio and having a 20-minute dance party right at home!
2. Limit sugar sweetened drinks. A recent article from Forbes notes that the U.S. ranks #3 among countries for the most deaths related to sugary drinks (see article). New York City Mayor Bloomberg understood this statistic and had great intentions, but each of us must take personal responsibility for what we put into our bodies. Please have your kids drink water.
3. Provide healthy snack choices at home. Limit potato chips, cookies and other snacks that have high caloric content and low nutritional value. Opt for nuts, popcorn, veggies, fresh or dried fruit or one of my favorites - peanut butter on celery. Help your kids refuel and prevent over-eating at meal times by providing fun, great-looking, nutritious snacks.
~One drop of knowledge can ripple through an entire community