The childhood obesity epidemic is on the rise, affecting over 20% of children in recent years and continues to climb. A good way to think about childhood obesity is when a patient has an abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that may impair a person’s health. Children classified as obese may suffer from many symptoms that affect their movement and respiratory system, such as:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Back and/or joint pains
- Shortness of breath, or dyspnoea
- Excessive sweating and intolerance to heat
At MemorialCare Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital Long Beach, over 30% of new patients met the criteria for obesity in recent months. Unfortunately, only about a quarter of these patients were seen by a registered dietician to help them manage their weight. If left unchecked, children may start developing obesity-related conditions, such as:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Type 2 diabetes
- Breathing problems, like asthma and sleep apnea
- Joint problems and other musculoskeletal disorders
The cause of obesity is generally seen as an excess of calories consumed compared to calories expended. Changes in dietary and physical activity patterns are often the result of environmental and societal changes. Many factors play a part in childhood obesity, like:
Increasing urbanization - children have less room to move around and play safely. Safety concerns related to COVID-19 - parents may not let their children go out or enroll them in sports due to COVID-19-related anxieties. A change in how schoolwork is taught - Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, schooling has shifted online, leading to a more sedentary lifestyle in children.
Now that school is back in session, children can increase their physical activity. Encourage your children to get out and move now that sports and other physical fitness programs have resumed. Keeping your child physically active can help them manage their weight, but another important factor that contributes to obesity is nutrition.
Across the nation, there has been an increase in the intake of foods high in fat and sugar due to inflation making healthier, unprocessed foods more expensive than canned, processed foods. Diet and obesity are inextricably linked to each other, so making sure children have a balanced diet will help manage their obesity. There are many healthy eating habits that parents should encourage their children to develop to help them maintain a healthy BMI, such as:
- Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables.
- Choosing lean meats, poultry, fish, lentils, or beans for protein.
- Drinking lots of water and limiting sugary drinks like soda or juice.
- Limiting consumption of sugar and saturated fat.
With healthy eating habits and regular physical activity, children will be able to not only maintain their BMI but keep themselves healthy in the future. The Healthy Kids Program at the Torrance Outpatient Specialty Center supports children and teens manage their weight to prevent them from developing serious health conditions. This program is the only one of its kind in the South Bay and is an excellent resource for parents to help their children stay healthy.