Little Hearts in a Big Body: Childhood Obesity’s Effect on Future Cardiovascular State
Childhood obesity is becoming one of the biggest health issues facing our country today. Over the past three decades, the rate of childhood obesity has tripled with one in three children and teenagers in the United States are classified as overweight or obese. This is not only damaging to children when they are young, but research has shown that that being obese during developing years show risk factors for developing heart disease later in life.
It is vital to tackle this issue now, as heart disease is the leading cause of death in this country. Parents need to take action and ensure their child is leading a healthy life now so they can grow up to be healthy adults.
Find out what childhood obesity can mean for your little one’s heart, what causes obesity and how to prevent or fix weight issues now.
Being overweight or obese as an adult usually starts with being overweight as a child. Like adults, extra weight can lead to risk factors for developing heart disease. In a study published by The New England Journal of Medicine, involving over 7,000 children, researchers found that the prevalence of having abnormal levels of cardio metabolic variables such as cholesterol, blood pressure and levels of blood sugar increased with the weight of the child.
These risk factors indicate that the heavier the child, the more prone they were to have risk factors of developing heart disease.
Causes of Childhood Obesity
There can be many reasons a child is overweight or obese, some easily controlled and others that are inherited. Two of the main factors are diet and level of activity.
Children need a balanced diet just like adults. They need the right nutrients to fuel them throughout the day and they also need to avoid sugary drinks and fast food. They should stay active and avoid an excess of sedentary activities such as playing video games, watching TV and browsing their phones.
Another factor is family genetics and dynamics. If a child’s parents are overweight or obese, it is more likely their child will be. This could be due to slow metabolism, but it could also be due to lifestyle. A child will eat more vegetables if they are in the house and made available, just like they will eat chips and cookies if they are available. Also be mindful if your child seems to eat out of stress. If there is stress in the household or at school, overeating might be the child’s way of coping with this environment.
Setting Your Child Up for a Healthy Life
It’s vital to pay attention to your child’s weight and make sure they stay healthy. Research has shown that obese children are significantly more likely to be obese adults, leading to health complications such as Type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea, mental health issues and heart disease. The good news is that helping your child become a healthy weight is completely doable!
Make physical activity and a balanced diet an initiative for the whole family. Everyone, not just children and teens, should focus on limiting screen time, doing physical activities and finding healthy foods. Restock the refrigerator with hummus and carrots while ditching the whole milk and white breads. Make healthier lunches for your kids and help them find activities they enjoy. If you are energized and participating too, they will be way more likely to enjoy adopting healthier habits.
Annual physician visits are also important for your child. Your child’s physician can check their weight and make sure they are staying within healthy ranges. You can also discuss which health screenings are right for your child. Heart disease risk factors such as high cholesterol and blood pressure can be tested during childhood. Be sure to discuss if your family has a history of high cholesterol, high blood pressure or heart disease.
Childhood obesity is a serious issue, but parents have the ability to help their children lead healthy lives. Find a Family Medicine physician by calling 254-618-1020.