/ by Morgan Chojnaki, DNP
One in every four adult deaths in the U.S. is from heart disease. And the majority of heart disease is related to obesity stemming from an unhealthy diet and lack of exercise.
In Kentucky, between 32 and 44 percent of adults are obese. If an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, perhaps we should shift the focus from reacting to poor health choices in adulthood to preventing poor health outcomes in children by tackling childhood obesity.
Kentucky is a great place to start that prevention because 34 percent of our school-age children are obese.
How does obesity lead to heart disease?
Obesity is normally caused by overconsumption of refined carbohydrates, sugars and fats. Fat in foods such as red meats, egg yolks and butter turns into low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in the blood. Starchy foods, such as lightly colored breads, cereals and pastas, and high-sugar foods and drinks, turn into triglycerides in the blood.
Both of these types of cholesterol build up in the arteries, causing them to narrow and blood flow to decrease. Low blood flow equals low oxygen flow. Without oxygen, portions of muscles, including the heart, die.
How do I know if my child is overweight or obese?
Have a conversation with your child’s pediatrician about this at their next appointment. Pediatric obesity is when a child’s body mass index (BMI) is at or above the 95th percentile. Being overweight is defined as BMI 85th-94th percentile.
How can I help my child live a healthy life?
Start with the 5-2-1-0 plan! Encourage your child to the following each day:
- Eat five servings fruits and vegetables.
- Limit screen time to two hours or less.
- Be active for one or more hours.
- Drink zero sugar-sweetened beverages (soda, sports drinks or sweet tea, for example).
Make healthy choices easier by limiting access to unhealthy foods and behaviors in your home. Use encouraging words and positive reinforcement when you see your child making healthy choices. Avoid negative talk or punishment when they make unhealthy choices as these tactics have been shown to be ineffective.
How we can help
Many factors affect our ability to make healthier choices, and sometimes families need more one-on-one structured help to achieve weight loss.
The team of pediatricians, nurse practitioners, registered dietitians and staff at the Pediatric High BMI Clinic at Kentucky Children’s Hospital can help children who are overweight/obese. We can help in reducing their BMI and preventing poor health outcomes such as heart disease, hypertension, fatty liver disease, Type 2 diabetes and sleep apnea.