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Kids' Health Issues to Watch: Eye on Obesity – and the Health Problems That Come With It

Eye on Obesity — and the Health Problems That Come With It

Government health officials said in 2008 that the childhood obesity rate had actually plateaued instead of continuing to shoot up. But this major public health problem certainly isn't going away, either. And now, more and more kids are developing other risky related conditions, too.

Although the obesity epidemic shows signs of leveling off, it's still a problem of epic proportions that isn't decreasing at all. In fact, about 32% of kids and teens are considered overweight or obese — an astounding and alarming statistic that should give every parent pause. And with many kids now tipping the scales, obesity ranked as the No. 1 children's health concern for most households in 2008, according to the "C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health for 2008."

Yet, a 2008 study found that many parents had no idea — or weren't at all worried — that their kids were considered obese. And that's despite the fact that new research shows kids are also increasingly getting all kinds of typically adult obesity-linked conditions, like type 2 diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), unhealthy cholesterol levels, and metabolic syndrome (a combination of obesity-related conditions that lead to the early onset of heart and blood vessel diseases).

More than half of the kids (some as young as 10) in a late 2008 study had cardiovascular systems that looked more like those of middle-aged adults — a major red flag for heart disease, the No. 1 killer of men and women. Now, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says tracking youngsters' cholesterol levels at an early age — and treating those that are unhealthy — may help fend off future heart disease. In 2008, the group changed its 10-year-old policy on cholesterol, recommending cholesterol-fighting drugs (called statins) for some kids as young as 8 with unhealthy cholesterol levels.

What to Watch:
As the economy keeps spiraling downward and stocking up at the supermarket seems pricier with each trip, parents will need to try even harder to keep kids' diets nutritious. After all, some junk food is cheaper than wholesome fare. But having less money to spend doesn't have to mean buying less healthy foods:

  • Opt for canned and frozen fruits and veggies.
  • Double recipes and freeze some for later.
  • Don't let food go to waste. Plan a full week of meals before grocery shopping — only buy what you need. Make soup from leftovers. Use up veggies, lunchmeat, and cheese before they go bad by making salad or dinner casseroles. Wash and cut up fruits and veggies right away and store them in small containers or bags in the front of the fridge for quick and wholesome snacks.
  • Buy only in-season fresh fruits and vegetables. Or go in on a community farm co-op membership with friends. (Farmer's markets usually cost less than grocery store chains, but some may feel the brunt of the economy and either fall by the wayside or start raising prices, too.)
  • Stock up on cheaper protein sources like eggs, canned and dried beans, peanut butter, canned chicken and light tuna, frozen shrimp, lean ground beef, chicken thighs or legs (instead of boneless breasts).

While it's not always easy, with a little creativity and planning, parents of all budget levels can do many things to keep nourishing meals from breaking the bank.

For Kids:
Is Dieting OK for Kids?
How Can I Feel Better About My Body?
Type 2 Diabetes: What Is It?
Weight and Diabetes
What "Being Overweight" Means
What's Cholesterol?
What's the Right Weight for Me?

For Teens:
Dealing With Feelings When You're Overweight
How Much Food Should I Eat?
Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)
Smart Supermarket Shopping
Type 2 Diabetes: What Is It?
What Is Cholesterol?
What's the Right Weight for My Height?
When Being Overweight Is a Health Problem

For Parents:
News - AAP Takes Aim at Cholesterol in Kids
News - Childhood Obesity Rates High, But Not Rising
Cholesterol and Your Child
Healthy Eating
High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)
Overweight and Obesity
News - Parents' Perceptions About Kids' Weight Often Off
Poll: Kids' Obesity Tops List of Concerns for 2008
Type 2 Diabetes: What Is It?

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Note: All information on KidsHealth® is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

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