Nearly 1 in 5 Children are ObesePosted by HCGH on May 15, 2012 in Fitness, Health, Parenting | 7 comments
… And Healthy Howard County is No Exception
On Monday morning in the Howard County Pediatric emergency room, my first patient is a 15 year old girl with high blood pressure who has pain in her knees when she walks; she weighs 230 pounds. The next patient is a 10 year old boy who weighs 180 pounds having an asthma attack. A little later I see a 13 year old boy who weighs over 260 pounds: he has skipped 40 days of school this year and refuses to go today because he is being picked on.
These are all nice children who live in Howard County, they have caring and concerned parents, but they are obese. Before I can ponder this too much, the nurse asks me to see an 8 year old girl who weighs 175 pounds with an MRSA infection. When I enter the room the mother has a crumpled Twinkie wrapper, and an empty bag of Doritos in her lap; she uses the half eaten Snickers bar in her hand as a pointer and asks me if they will be finished in time for lunch. The girl is on the exam table and next to her are two empty candy wrappers and her hands are clutching a bag of chips.
These patients are all being seen in Howard County General Hospital’s pediatric emergency room, not an obesity clinic. Some of these children are already having complications from their obesity. The girl with the knee pain tells me she has been walking 2 to 3 miles a day to lose weight. The 13 year old boy says that he has attempted dieting for years and is finished going on diets. The parents of the 10 year old have “tried and tried” but are now waiting for him to “grow into his weight.”
These patients all tell me how difficult it is to get their weight under control. It is hard partly because exercise, while a great start, won’t do the job all by itself. For example the 15 year old will barely burn off one Snickers bar for every 40 minutes of walking. The 8 year old has an even more difficult task; she would have to a run a 10-K every day just to burn the calories from her morning snack (neither the 10-K nor the snack are recommended). In addition, as the children said, diets are tough to stick to. The easily available foods are loaded with calories and because they have very few nutrients like vitamins and minerals, they don’t really satisfy our bodies needs… so we end up eating more of them and getting way more calories than we need. We store these extra calories as fat.
To put this calorie/nutrition imbalance in perspective: a child could eat 2 bags of Doritos, a Snickers bar, an extra large soda and a helping of French fries and still not get the vitamins she would obtain from a single banana. Sadly, obtaining all that junk food can be easier than getting one piece of fruit. The junk food would add 30 extra pounds a year to the child’s waist line, and as one of the parents commented, she would still be hungry.
- Integrate physical activity every day in every way
- Market what matters for a healthy life
- Make healthy foods and beverages available everywhere
- Activate employers and health care professionals
- Strengthen schools as the heart of health
We need to start now or our children are going to grow up obese with serious medical problems.
- BMI below the 5th percentile normal weight
- BMI at the 5th and less than the 85th percentile overweight
- BMI at the 85th and below 95th percentiles obese
- BMI at or above 95th percentile
BMI is not a perfect measure of body fat and can be misleading in some situations. For example, a muscular person may have a high BMI without being overweight (because extra muscle adds to a body weight — but not fatness). In addition, BMI may be difficult to interpret during puberty when kids are experiencing periods of rapid growth. It’s important to remember that BMI is usually a good indicator — but is not a direct measurement — of body fat. If you’re worried that your child or teen may be overweight, make an appointment with your doctor, who can assess eating and activity habits and make suggestions on how to make positive changes. The doctor may also decide to screen for some of the medical conditions that can be associated with obesity.