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The prevalence of obesity among children is increasing at an alarming rate. Overweight four-year-old children have a doubled risk of high blood pressure by age six, raising the hazard of future heart attack and stroke. The World Health Organization (WHO) has listed childhood obesity as one of the most serious public health challenges of the 21st century.
Obesity is a multifactorial disorder; unhealthy diet – eating foods high in fats, sugar and salt (junk food, processed food) and a sedentary lifestyle (TV, internet, computer and mobile games have taken precedence over outdoor sports) contribute significantly to this escalating epidemic. Women should shed extra pounds before becoming pregnant, avoid gaining excess weight during pregnancy, and quit smoking, as these are all established risk factors for childhood obesity.
Most obese children grow up to be obese adults. Overweight and obese children are at risk of other lifestyle disorders such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension, dyslipidemia, metabolic syndrome later in life. They are more prone to joint problems, sleep apnea and social and psychological problems such as stigmatization and poor self-esteem.
Healthy habits in childhood lay a foundation for a healthier adulthood. Here are some tips that parents can follow at home to tackle obesity and unhealthy habits in children.
- Encourage healthy eating habits right at the onset.
- Try making favorite dishes healthier. Few changes can make even snacks healthier.
- Avoid tempting children with calorie-rich food. It is okay to treat them but in moderation and by limiting high-fat and high-sugar or salty snacks.
- Make kids understand the importance of being physically active.
- Lead by example. Indulge in at least 60 minutes of moderate to intense physical activity every day.
- Reduce sedentary time. While reading is a good option, too much of screen time is not.
- Replace screen time with the outdoors and fun activities to keep children engaged.