While two-thirds (or more) of American adults are now overweight or obese, our youth are becoming part of the statistics as well. Eighteen percent of kids ages 12 to 19 are now obese, according to statistics provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And one of the overweight/obesity-related (and largely preventable) chronic diseases, type 2 diabetes, is also on the rise in young people.
The Institute of Medicine has recently released a new report further detailing the rising obesity epidemic in our children. The authors urge us to do better: not simply focusing on what we can do in weight management as adults, but starting healthier habits much, much earlier. We can do even better than targeting overweight adolescents before they become obese adults.
We should be starting healthy habits when we start out in the world.
Almost 10 percent of babies and toddlers carry too much weight, per the report. And over 20 percent of kids are already overweight or obese once they reach the ages of 2 to 5.
Our American lifestyle may be largely to blame. Too much food, too little activity. But it doesn't stop there: our stressful lifestyles and sleep deprivation are partially at fault as well.
But the news isn't all grim. There is so much that rests squarely within our control. And it isn't about a number on the scale, or even the size of our pants. It is about optimizing our health so that we can live more healthfully, happily, with less use of the health care system. Overweight and obesity are both linked to a multitude of health issues and chronic diseases, including arthritis, asthma, and cancer.
The authors of the IOM report urge parents and child-care providers to take action. Some of the recommendations include:
• Healthcare providers should weigh and measure children at every routine visit. If kids are weighing too much, the doctor should communicate this to the parents.
• If your doctor does communicate to you that your child may weigh too much for their age and build, take this seriously and take action early.
• Help your children learn to approach food in a healthy way. Give them plenty of nutritious options so they get accustomed to eating them - and lead by example by eating them yourself.
• Work on helping your kids to recognize when they're truly hungry and when they've had enough.
• Eat together as a family. This time together has been linked to healthier eating habits for a range of ages.
• Limit screen time (computers and TV).
• Help everyone get and stay active. Our kids need to be active and moving every day. Parents can be active with them and model the behavior by making fitness a priority for themselves.
For even more tips on how to get better health and need the health care system less, check out: The New Prescription: How to Get the Best Health Care in a Broken System by Dr. Cynthia D. Haines, M.D. (Dr. Cindy Haines) and Eric Metcalf, M.P.H.
Published On: October 17, 2011