How Obesity can Impact a Child’s Long-Term Health

September is Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. A physician explains why it's important to get the health condition under control at an early age

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CLEVELAND – September is National Childhood Obesity Month.

According to the CDC, obesity affects one in five children and adolescents here in the United States.

It’s typically diagnosed using body mass index.

“Pediatricians calculate this after they measure a child’s height and weight,” said Roy Kim, MD, pediatric endocrinologist for Cleveland Clinic Children’s. “It accounts for the fact that a taller child will weigh more naturally just by virtue of being bigger. And it turns out that body mass index is a fair indicator of body fat tissue.”

Dr. Kim said rates of obesity have continued to rise over the last few decades.

Some contributing factors may be due to lifestyle, environment and genetics.

He said it’s important to get the health condition under control before it leads to long-term issues.

For example, a child could go on to develop high blood pressure, high cholesterol or type two diabetes.

There are also psychological concerns.

Dr. Kim said a child could become depressed, socially isolated or even face bullying or body shaming.

When it comes to treatment, new guidelines were released earlier this year.

“What’s interesting about the new guidelines is that still at the foundation are therapeutic lifestyle changes, namely nutrition counseling and an increase in physical activity. We know these are effective and 100% percent safe,” he said.

With that being said, the guidelines also suggest offering certain weight loss medications and surgery, when medically necessary.

To learn more, it’s best to consult with your child’s pediatrician.

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