Childhood obesity cause for concern

April 19, 2012

The incidence of childhood obesity has more than tripled over the past 30 years, according to data developed by UnitedHealthcare.

Since 1980, the incidence of childhood obesity in children between 6 and 11 years old has jumped from 7 percent to 20 percent; and among children 12-19 years old, the incidence of obesity has ballooned from 5 percent to 18 percent.

More than one-third of children and adolescents are considered obese or overweight, according to the Mayo Clinc.  

Physicians consider a child obese if their body mass index (BMI) is at or above the 95th percentile for children of the same age and sex. This means that when compared to other children of the same age and height, 95 percent have a lower BMI.

Childhood obesity is a serious medical condition not only because of the immediate effects on a child’s health, but because of the long-term effects as well, says UnitedHealthcare.  If not controlled, children may prematurely begin to experience health issues normally faced by adults, such as cardiovascular disease and stroke, diabetes, fatty liver disease, bone and joint problems, cancer, breathing problems, mental health issues and learning and behavior disorders

UnitedHealthcare recommends that if you suspect your child to be obese to schedule an appointment with the child’s pediatrician or family doctor for an initial diagnosis.

While there may be some hormonal and genetic causes of childhood obesity, the most common cause is eating too much and exercising too little, says United Healthcare. 

In preparation for that appointment, UnitedHealthcare recommends you have with you the child’s growth measurements over time, a record of the child’s eating habits, including snacks, and physical activity, and ask in advance what other information the physician may require or preparation for any tests that may be conducted at the visit.