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Childhood Obesity - An Epidemic

It is very difficult as a parent to admit or think that your child has a problem with his or her weight. It's true that weight fluctuates in children as they hit growth spurts and when they reach puberty. When is it something to worry about as a parent? There has been a surge of interest regarding this recently in the media and the medical community so all parents need to pay attention to this.

What is Childhood Obesity?
Obesity is defined as having a body mass index (BMI) that is outside of the normal range for age. BMI is based on height and weight and can be calculated at your physician's office. Average BMIs vary throughout childhood, so your child's BMI must be plotted on a chart and given a percentile ranking.

Why do I need to worry about this?
Childhood obesity has increased in the past several years. In 1990, only 10-14% of Nebraska children ages 2 to 18 were classified as obese, and in 2009 that number had risen to 31.5% according to the Trust for American Health. This is a growing problem, literally. Obesity in childhood can lead to high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, and multiple other health concerns.

What can I do?
If you are concerned, bring your child in to your physician's office for an evaluation. Examination may include height, weight, and blood pressure screening, among other things. If your child has significant risk factors or there are concerns during the examination, certain laboratory tests may be warranted. Things you can do on your own is to increase physical activity, decrease screen time (TV, video games, computer) and encourage healthy eating habits.

Children of any age should be getting at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day. This can include walking, riding bikes, playing games, and other activities. Physical activity not only helps maintain a healthy weight, it also helps to develop strong bones. Turn off the TV and limit computer and video games to between zero and two hours daily.

Another way to help your kids is to encourage healthy eating habits. They learn from you, so set a good example. Be sure to include a fruit and vegetable with every meal and encourage whole grains instead of processed flour. Avoid sugared beverages such as regular pop, lemonade, and artificial fruit drinks. Instead, encourage two servings of low-fat milk per day and water.

Get out there and get active! Play with your kids and encourage healthy eating habits at a young age. Challenge your family to keep the TV off in the evenings and do activities together. Parents set the best examples so join the fight against childhood obesity today.

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