Pediatrician Talks Side Effects and Breaking Unhealthy Patterns
Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “The risk of adult obesity increases as a child gets older. If an infant is obese, he or she has a 14 percent chance of being obese as an adult. Twenty-five percent of obese preschool children will be obese as adults, and obese adolescents have a 90 percent chance of adulthood obesity,” said Amy Gumuliauskas, M.D., St. Anthony Pediatrician.
Childhood obesity goes beyond weight gain, as it increases risk of other medical issues. “Childhood obesity affects all organ systems. Overweight children mature earlier compared to non-obese children. They are almost three times more likely to develop high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes, and two times more likely to develop high cholesterol, which leads to early heart and kidney disease,” said Dr. Gumuliauskas. “Type 2 diabetes has been diagnosed in children as young as nine years of age,” she added.
Obstructive sleep apnea, increased severity of asthma, exercise intolerance, increased mechanical stress on joints, dysfunction of the liver, and menstrual irregularities, are other side effects that can affect a child suffering from obesity. So, what can we do to help our children? How can we influence a healthy lifestyle? Dr. Gumuliauskas gives us a few tips on how to do just that.
“Parents can break this pattern by making healthy choices that involve the whole family:
* First, the family needs to sit down for meals together, with all distractions removed. The television should be off, and cell phones and tablets should be put away. Meal time should be a fun time for the family to eat and socialize together. * Second, the family should not have sugar-containing beverages in the house. Children need 16-24 ounces of low-fat or skim milk per day. Milk should be served at meals and water in between meals when children are thirsty. Juice, soda, sports drinks and energy drinks contain large amounts of sugar and extra calories. * Third, both adults and children should have half of their plate filled with fruits and/or vegetables at every meal. Fruits and vegetables have vitamins, minerals, and fiber that are essential for healthy growing bodies. If children are still hungry after eating an age-appropriate sized plate of food, parents should offer the child a second helping of fruit and/or vegetables, but not more of the other food groups. * Fourth, the family should limit screen time – meaning television, video games, computer, tablet and cell phone. Children less than two years of age should not have any screen time, and children two years of age and older should limit screen time to no more than two hours per day. * Finally, children should participate in at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day. On school days, children need 60 minutes of physically activity in addition to whatever they do in school. Physical activity has a positive effect on all aspects of a child’s health, including weight reduction, improved self-esteem, and better school performance.”
Introducing a healthier lifestyle to our families isn’t always easy, but it doesn’t mean it can’t be fun. “Parents can allow their children to help compose the grocery list, specifically picking out which fruits and vegetables the family will eat for the week. If children are involved in the process, they are more likely to eat them during mealtime,” said Dr. Gumuliauskas.
Exercise is another great opportunity for families to do something fun together. “Children love playing with their parents, and will be much more likely to participate if parents are involved. Examples of such activities include taking a walk, riding bikes, kicking a soccer ball, throwing a Frisbee, playing catch, playing basketball, jumping rope, playing hop-scotch, dancing to music, or even playing with a hula hoop,” suggested Dr. Gumuliauskas. “However, because bad weather often prevents the family from being able to go outside, have ideas for both indoor and outdoor activities,” she added.