Obese children develop a higher risk for heart attack and stroke in adulthood.
Children categorized as obese, as young as age six, exhibit signs of elevated blood sugar, cholesterol and high blood pressure, according to an international study published in the journal BMJ. The study analyzed the results of 63 previous studies, evaluating the health risks of almost 50,000 children from 23 countries. The researchers sought to compare the link between childhood obesity and risks for stroke, heart disease, and other problems usually associated with old age.
A Head Start Toward Health Problems
Claire Friedemann of the Department of Primary Care Health Sciences at the University of Oxford led the study and was dismayed to find a strong correlation. Without a doubt, obese adults are already at risk for health problems like heart disease and stroke, but the latest research comfirms that having a high BMI as a child translates into complications later on.
Obese children demonstrated thicker heart muscles compared to their counterparts of normal weight. Thicker heart muscles are usually associated with people who have had high blood pressure for a long time. This thickened muscle impedes with proper cardiovascular functioning and is linked to heart attacks. The obese children also exhibited higher fasting insulin levels and insulin resistance, indicators of the potential beginnings of diabetes. The authors of the study estimate that the children’s risk for heart and attack and stroke is 30 to 40 percent higher than that of children of average weight.
Evolving Playtime, Expanding Waists
Perhaps the greatest contributor to the rise in childhood obesity is the playtime shift from the yard to the couch. Instead of a game of tag or hide and seek, kids can enter new dimensions from the comfort of their living room with the latest video game, or watch hours of youtube clips for entertainment.
If you’re a parent, set boundaries for your children like you would in any other area. Limit sedentary leisure activities to a couple hours a day, and encourage children to go and play outside with their friends.
Be a Role Model
Kids follow the lead of the adults by which they’re surrounded. If you get home from work and plop down on the couch to watch The X Factor for the third time in a week, your child will associate television watching with the appropriate way to spend their leisure time. Instead, go outside with your kid and teach him or her a sport. Practice throwing or kicking a ball around and see if your child would like to join a team. Go on bike rides together for fun and to run errands.
Too Young to Work Out?
Not at all. Good habits established early are hard to break. Get your child excited about the fitness lifestyle when they’re young and the fervor will carry into adulthood. A simple fitness routine with pull-ups, sit-ups, and push-ups is a great start. As they reach their teen years, get them a gym membership as a birthday present. You’ll be giving the greatest gift of all; a lifelong commitment to fitness and a healthy lifestyle.