Published: May 3, 2007
Updated: June 23, 2008
Every day in clinic I see children who are overweight and whose parents ask “What can we do?”
For years I have told them to turn off the TV, get back outside and play, and have dessert on Saturday only. Time is proving me correct but with a scientific basis.
Dr. Sarah Armstrong, a pediatrician and director of Duke Children's Healthy Lifestyles Program, tells us more about this epidemic that is threatening our children.
-- Dennis Clements, MD, PhD, MPH
Mostly, they are illnesses that used to be considered “adult” illnesses, but that are seen more and more commonly in children.
Chronic diseases that limit children's ability to participate in sports and other activities include:
Sadly, the rates of depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and poor school performance are also much higher in overweight children.
If you’re looking for a root cause for the epidemic, you have plenty of options to choose from:
The only way to know for sure if your child is overweight is
to have your child’s doctor measure his or her body mass index,
or BMI, and plot it on childhood BMI curves.
A BMI for age and gender over the 85th percentile is considered overweight.
Your child should have his or her blood pressure checked, and be tested for diabetes, high cholesterol, and liver disease. Your doctor will discuss the results, and give you healthy tips on how to reverse unhealthy trends.
Kids don’t need to be overweight to make healthy changes.
They can start by getting exercise. The American Academy of
Pediatrics recommends that all children get 60 minutes of
physical activity every day.
In addition to exercise, try these suggestions:
A healthy lifestyle is easy to achieve if we take it one step at a time! Now is the time to start. We have a long way to go in the next 20 years to reverse the epidemic, and we can only do it by working together.
-- Sarah Armstrong, MD, is a pediatrician with Duke Children's and director of Duke Children's Healthy Lifestyle Program.
-- Dennis Clements,
MD, PhD, MPH, is the chief of primary care pediatrics at
Duke Children's Hospital.