Pediatrics | Published June 11, 2018 | Written by Kate Geier, CRNP, pediatrics, Mount Nittany Physician Group

The link between childhood obesity and chronic illness

Mount Nittany Physician Group Pediatrics provider Kate Geier, CRNP, meets with a patient during a wellness exam

Childhood obesity is a serious health threat to children. Kids who are obese have surpassed simply being overweight and are at risk for a number of chronic health conditions. Poor health stemming from childhood obesity can continue into adulthood.

CAUSES OF CHILDHOOD OBESITY
Family history, psychological factors and lifestyle all play a role in childhood obesity. Children whose parents or other family members are overweight or obese are more likely to follow suit. But the main cause of childhood obesity is a combination of eating too much and exercising too little.

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 common culprits. Convenience foods, such as frozen dinners, salty snacks and canned pastas, can also contribute to unhealthy weight gain.

Not enough physical activity can be another cause of childhood obesity. Exercise burns calories and helps you maintain a healthy weight. Children who aren’t encouraged to be active may be less likely to burn extra calories through sports, time on the playground or other forms of physical activity.

HEALTH RISKS ASSOCIATED WITH CHILDHOOD OBESITY
Children who are obese have a higher risk of developing health problems than their peers who maintain a healthy weight. Diabetes, heart disease and asthma are among the top three health risks associated with childhood obesity. Asthma, sleep disorders and joint pain are other common issues.

HEALTHY EATING AND NUTRITION
Changing the eating habits of children who are obese is absolutely essential. Parental influence shapes your child’s eating patterns. Most kids eat what their parents buy, so healthy eating needs to start at home.

Start a nutrition overhaul by limiting sweets and soft drinks in your home. Even drinks made from 100 percent juice can be high in calories. Instead, serve water and lower-fat or nonfat milk with meals. Cut back on fast food consumption and make a conscious effort to cook more often. Preparing a meal and eating together is not only healthy in a nutritional sense, but it’s also an excellent way to work in some family time.

LIFESTYLE CHANGES TO FIGHT CHILDHOOD OBESITY
There are several different strategies that can help prevent childhood obesity.

  • INCREASE PHYSICAL ACTIVITY
    Increase your child’s level of physical activity to help him or her shed weight safely. Use the word “activity” instead of “exercise” or “workout” to keep him or her interested. Try to find activities that the entire family can enjoy together. This is not only a great way to bond, but it also helps your child learn by example.
  • CUT DOWN ON SCREEN TIME
    Limit screen time, too. Kids who spend several hours a day watching television, playing computer games or using their smartphones or other devices are more likely to be overweight.

OUTLOOK FOR CHILDHOOD OBESITY
Childhood obesity is a serious issue in the United States. However, with proper education and support, children can learn healthier ways to prepare meals and stay active. Help your children stay healthier for longer by preparing nutritious foods for them and encouraging them to get plenty of exercise.

Kate Geier is a Certified Registered Nurse Practitioner with Mount Nittany Physician Group Pediatrics at the Mount Nittany Health – Boalsburg location. She is certified by the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners.

This article originally appeared in the Centre Daily Times