Childhood obesity is a growing epidemic in the United States and is the number one health concern among parents, according to the American Heart Association, showing to be more of a concern than drinking, smoking or doing drugs. Obesity among children leads to a wide range of physical and psychological side effects, including high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, heart disease, Type II Diabetes and high cholesterol. By understanding the statistics and facts about childhood obesity, parents become educated on the growing problem, and how best to prevent it in their own children.

2014 Statistics

In the last 30 years, the amount of children struggling with obesity has more than doubled. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that from 1980 and 2010 the number of obese children 6 to 11 years old has risen to 18 percent from 7%. More than 1/3 of children in 2010 were reported as being overweight or obese and much of the obesity in children is the result of eating too many calories, not getting enough exercise and various genetic or environmental factors. The American Heart Association (AHA) found that childhood obesity was leading to physical effects like high blood pressure and a higher risk of diabetes, but also psychological issues like body image problems, low self-esteem, and depression. It has also been linked to earlier fatalities when obese children become adults.

How Obesity is Measured

The AHA and similar organizations use the same basic principle for determining if a child is overweight or obese. While adults rely on the standard body mass index (BMI) chart, it is slightly different with children and adolescents. For children, the BMI value is first determined by comparing the child’s age, height, and weight. Then those numbers are compared to the current average percentiles for children of the same qualities. For children and adolescents between 2 and 19 years of age, they will use the growth chart, looking for numbers below the 95th percentile as children with a BMI above the 95th percentile are considered obese. There are online BMI charts for children that make it
easier to determine their obesity rate.

Negative Health Effects

The reason these statistics are so important is that of the long list of physical and psychological health effects that children struggle with if they are obese. Some of the short-term effects include being at a higher risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and cardiovascular disease, having a condition called pre-diabetes, which exposes them to a risk of developing Type II Diabetes and being at a greater risk for joint and bone problems, sleep apnea and psychological issues. The long-term health effects of obesity in children include Type II Diabetes, heart disease, cancer, osteoarthritis and an increase for cancer including cervical, kidney, pancreas, colon, breast, gallbladder and prostate cancer.

Tips for Prevention

Whether your child is on the average, overweight or obese weight range, it is never too late to develop healthy changes and preventative measures. Put a stop to these unhealthy habits now in order to prevent more serious complications from coming up later. Let’s Move recommends starting with healthy eating at home not just for your child, but for the entire family. These positive changes help your child not be singled out and help the changes start at home. Start by cooking healthy meals for dinner, being sure your child is not drinking a lot of sugary drinks and having processed foods and preparing a healthy breakfast. Pack their lunches with healthy items they enjoy eating, rather than relying on the school cafeteria. Increasing physical activity is also important, such as encouraging their participation in school clubs or sports, going on family walks or hikes, or encouraging more play time outdoors.

These childhood obesity statistics and facts can be scary,  but they should also give you the push in the right direction. That concern is what helps more children prevent the health effects of obesity and prevent more serious obesity issues later in life.