Health In Focus With Dr. Zulfikar Bux
We tend to have a culture of thinking that a fat/chubby child is healthy and our kids should eat as much as they want. I am beginning to see a worrying trend as more and more children are presenting for medical conditions and are overweight.
It’s a factor we need to address before it becomes a major public health dilemma. Knowing about your child’s weight and helping to address overweight will contribute to a more productive life for your child.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT FOR MY CHILD TO HAVE A HEALTHY WEIGHT?
It’s important to have a healthy weight, because children who are very overweight can have:
* Liver problems
* Asthma – This is a lung condition that can make it hard to breathe.
* High blood pressure
* Knee or back pain
* Sleep apnea – This is a condition that makes people stop breathing for short periods during sleep.
It’s also important that your child has a healthy weight so that he or she will have a healthy weight as an adult. Being overweight as an adult can lead to medical problems such as high blood pressure, diabetes (high blood sugar), heart attacks, and some types of cancer.
WHAT CAUSES CHILDREN TO BE OVERWEIGHT?
Children can be overweight for different reasons. Some children simply gain weight more easily than other children. These children can become overweight by eating too much, eating unhealthy foods, or not getting enough exercise.
When children gain weight very easily, they have to work extra hard to get to and stay at a healthy weight.
Although uncommon, some medicines and medical conditions can also make children gain weight more easily.
WILL MY CHILD NEED TESTS IF HE OR SHE IS OVERWEIGHT?
Your doctor will talk with you and your child, and do an exam. He or she might do blood tests to check for:
* A condition that could be causing your child to gain weight easily
* Health problems that can happen when children are overweight
HOW CAN I HELP MY CHILD GET TO A HEALTHY WEIGHT?
To help your child get to a healthy weight, you need to help him or her eat healthy foods and be more active. Making these lifestyle changes can be hard, especially at first.
To help you and your child start making lifestyle changes, think of the numbers 5-2-1-0. Each of these numbers stands for a goal you can try to reach every day to help your child be healthier.
* 5 – Have your child eat 5 servings of fruits or vegetables each day. Frozen fruits and vegetables count towards the goal, but fruit juice does not. A serving is usually 1 whole fruit (such as an apple or banana) or ½ cup of vegetables. If your child does not like vegetables or fruit, start slowly. Eat these foods yourself to set a good example, and have your child keep trying them.
* 2 – Limit your child’s “screen time” to 2 hours or less each day. Screen time includes watching TV, playing video games, or using the computer for things other than homework.
* 1 – Have your child do physical activity for 1 hour or more each day. This can include doing a sport, or playing outside.
* 0 – Your child should have 0 sugary drinks each day. Sugary drinks include soda, sports drinks, and all juices.
You and your child might not be able to meet all of these goals at first, but that’s okay. Choose 1 or 2 goals to try first. Later on, you can try to meet all of these goals.
IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE I CAN DO TO HELP MY CHILD?
* Avoid bringing unhealthy food into your home. If you have unhealthy food in the home, your child is likely to eat it even if you tell him or her not to.
* Make sure your child gets enough sleep. Some studies suggest that children who do not sleep enough are more likely to gain too much weight. Children younger than 6 years old should get 10 to 12 hours of sleep each night. Older children should get 8 to 10 hours of sleep each night. To encourage sleep, it helps to have a set bedtime and wake-up time every day—even non-school days.
* Involve the whole family. Have everyone in the family eat healthier and be more active, even those who have a normal weight.
* Tell your child that the goal is for him or her to be healthy and strong. Let him or her know that the way to be healthy and strong is to eat healthy food and be active.
* Get help if being overweight is causing your child to be sad, worried, or have a hard time in school. Ask your doctor for ways to get help for your child.