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Overweight Children and Teenagers
Overweight and Obesity in Children, Adolescents and Teens
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Details of Child, Adolescent & Teenage Weight Problems

Overweight in Children and Teenagers

The Problem of Overweight in Children and Teenagers

  • In 1999, 13% of children aged 6 to 11 years and 14% of teenagers aged 12 to 19 years in the United States were overweight.
  • This prevalence has nearly tripled for teenagers in the past 2 decades.
  • Risk factors for heart disease, such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure, occur with increased frequency in overweight children and teenagers compared to children with a healthy weight.
  • Type 2 diabetes, previously considered an adult disease, has increased dramatically in children and teenagers. Overweight and obesity are closely linked to type 2 diabetes.
  • Overweight teenagers have a 70% chance of becoming overweight or obese adults. This increases to 80% if one or more parent is overweight or obese. Overweight or obese adults are at risk for a number of health problems including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and some forms of cancer.
  • The most immediate consequence of overweight as perceived by the children themselves is social discrimination. This is associated with poor self-esteem and depression

Causes of Overweight in Children and Teenagers

Overweight in children and teenagers is generally caused by lack of physical activity, unhealthy eating patterns, or a combination of the two, with genetics and lifestyle both playing important roles in determining a child's weight.

  • Our society has become very sedentary. Television, computer and video games contribute to children's inactive lifestyles.
  • 43% of teenagers watch more than 2 hours of television a day.
  • Children, especially girls, become less active as they move through adolescence.

Determination of Overweight in Children and Teenagers

Doctors and other health care professionals are the best people to determine whether your child or teenager's weight is healthy, and they can help rule out rare medical problems as the cause of unhealthy weight.

  • A child's Body Mass Index (BMI) can be calculated from measurements of height and weight. Health professionals often use a BMI "growth chart" to help them assess whether a child or teenagers is overweight.
  • A physician will also consider your child or teenager's age and growth patterns to determine whether his or her weight is healthy.

For more, see Weight Control for Children

Source: US Surgeon General.


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