The percentage of overweight or obese children - child obesity -is growing at an dangerous rate, with 1 out of 3 kids now considered overweight or obese. There are many reasons for this and obesity among children can be prevented. Many kids are spending less time exercising and more time in front of the TV, computer, or video-game console. And today's busy families have fewer free moments to prepare nutritious, home-cooked meals. From fast food to electronics, quick and easy is the reality for many people in the new millennium.
Obesity means having an excessive amount of body fat. Overweight and obesity are officially defined using Body Mass Index (BMI), a scale that identifies healthy, overweight and obese weight ranges. For children, the BMI weight ranges also take into account developmental age and sex. A child is said to be overweight or obese when his or her BMI exceeds the healthy range for his or her age and stage.
Is Your Child Overweight? Body mass index (BMI) uses height and weight measurements to estimate how much body fat a person has. To calculate BMI, divide weight in kg by height in meters squared; for pounds and inches, divide weight by height squared and multiply the result by the conversion factor 703. An easier way to measure BMI is to use a BMI calculator. Once you know your child's BMI, it can be plotted on a standard BMI chart.
Kids fall into one of four categories:
Underweight: BMI below the 5th percentile
Normal weight: BMI at the 5th and less than the 85th percentile
Overweight: BMI at the 85th and below 95th percentiles
Obese: BMI at or above 95th percentile
BMI is not a perfect measure of body fat and can be misleading in some situations. For example, a muscular person may have a high BMI without being overweight (because extra muscle adds to a body weight — but not fatness). In addition, BMI may be difficult to interpret during puberty when kids are experiencing periods of rapid growth. It's important to remember that BMI is usually a good indicator — but is not a direct measurement — of body fat.
Preventing kids from becoming overweight means adapting the way your family eats and exercises, and how you spend time together. Helping kids lead healthy lifestyles begins with parents who lead by example. I found a simple, easy to understand book Parents guide to eliminate child obesity. As a parent we should take the lead to inculcate good habits, healthy diets and discipline in our children. I found the guidelines and methods explained in the book very encouraging and it created an involvement of everyone in the family.
Child obesity is dangerous because it leads other medical and health problems. If you're worried that your child or teen may be overweight, make an appointment with your doctor, who can assess eating and activity habits and make suggestions on how to make positive changes. He will also suggest how to prevent obesity in your child. The doctor may also decide to screen for some of the medical conditions that can be associated with obesity. Depending on your child's BMI, age, and health, the doctor may refer you to a registered dietitian for additional advice and, possibly, may recommend a comprehensive weight management program. Avoid starting your child on an aggressive diet. Instead, make long-term changes to healthy eating for all the family, and get your child involved in sport or exercise. Aim to increase your child's intake of fresh fruit and vegetables (they should be having at least five portions a day) and reduce fat intake. Try to find healthy snacks they like, and sit down together at least once a day for a balanced meal.
And, because being overweight is often a family problem, measure the BMI of everyone in the family, and start making changes together for a healthy family lifestyle.
A study carried out by researchers at Bristol University has shown that children who are overweight at age nine have an increased risk of suffering heart disease as an adult. As approximately 200,000 deaths in Britain each year are attributed to heart disease, this is a worrying result for many. It is the belief of Tam Fry, of the National Obesity Forum, that child’s health advice should be issued to parents at a much earlier age.
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