Obesity is a major problem in the U.S., costing billions of dollars to fight each year, and the disease shows no signs of stopping. In the past thirty years, its prevalence has tripled among children between the ages of 6 and 11, increasing from 6.5% in 1980 to 19.6% in 2008. In adolescents, it has increased from 5% to 18.1% in 2008. Obesity is caused by "caloric imbalance," or a greater amount of calories consumed than burned. Prader-Willi syndrome and Cushing's syndrome are both examples of rare diseases that can cause obesity in children. (Source: www.cdc.gov, Mayo Clinic)
The most obvious risk factor is a diet heavy in calorie-rich foods such as baked goods, fast food, sodas, candy, and vending machine snacks. Combined with such a diet, a lack of exercise becomes all the more dangerous as the child's body doesn't burn the large amount of calories that it consumes. Family history can often predict habits and lifestyles that enable a child to develop obesity. These habits can be psychologically motivated, such as the compulsion to deal with emotional problems by overeating. Socioeconomic factors have also been proven to cause a great amount of risk, being that many families simply don't have the time and money to motivate exercise and healthy eating choices. (Source: Mayo Clinic)
When children become obese, they put themselves at a high amount of risk for cardiovascular disease, in forms such as high cholesterol and hypertension. They are also more likely to develop problems in their joints due to overexertion, and are also at risk of osteoarthritis later in life. Sleep problems such as sleep apnea are also more probable, as well as psychological problems resulting from low self-esteems and poor social health. They are also at a greater risk of developing adult health problems such as heart disease; type 2 diabetes, stroke and different types of cancers. (Source: Mayo Clinic and surgeongeneral.gov)
A two-year program developed at the Greater Richmond YMCA to help teens fight obesity. The program's acronym stands for "Teaching, Encouragement, Exercise, Nutrition and Support" - and was designed to educate teenagers about the various causes of obesity, and the habits which reinforce it, and encourage them to fight the disease with challenging exercise routines and better eating choices. Family support is a fundamental component of the program, as many risk factors of obesity begin at home. (Source: www.vcuchildrens.org)
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