By Dr. Steven Long
There is an obvious trend in America. We all see it. I don’t mean to be cruel but we are the fattest nation on the planet. It is obvious that this problem is beginning earlier and earlier in our lives. Overweight children most often become overweight adults. Sure, there are those who seek guidance or find inspiration and commit themselves to a healthier lifestyle. Unfortunately, those success stories for our kids are few and far between. The majority of obese children leave adolescence for an adult life already ripe with health concerns. And, according to a study by Harvard’s School of Public Health, those lives often end prematurely.
The Harvard study — published by the Annals of Internal Medicine — evaluated the health habits and medical records of more than 100,000 women who had provided data through the Nurses’ Health Study (an ongoing federally financed study on women’s health issues) since 1989. Researchers found that those women who were overweight or obese at age 18 had a far greater risk of dying from cancer or heart disease before reaching middle age.
Today, one-third of U.S. children are overweight or at risk of becoming overweight. The Harvard research confirms that childhood obesity can be a death sentence.
Aside from the dire predictions from the Harvard study it is obvious that being obese and overweight can limit children’s ability to enjoy and participate in many activities during childhood and later in life. Conditions like high blood pressure and cholesterol levels are showing up earlier. Type II diabetes, which was thought to only affect adults, is now found in children. These children also face an increased risk of many chronic diseases like heart disease. Childhood obesity also lowers self-esteem, affects relationships with peers and contributes to poor self-image. These social and psychological consequences impact children’s ability to learn and feel accepted. These problems can be prevented with the help of parents, caregivers and family.
Parents, caregivers and family can help children maintain a healthy weight by teaching and modeling good eating and physical activity habits during these early years, which lay the foundation for a healthy lifestyle in later years.
The physical and emotional strain on an overweight child is compounded by the type of behavior uncovered in this study. The obese youths were found less likely to exercise and more likely to have smoked and consumed alcohol. Let me be the master of the obvious, this is a recipe for a shorter life.”
While the Harvard study did not establish whether permanent weight loss after age 18 decreases the risk of dying prematurely I urge parents and children to address their health regimen. Increased media exposure and poor diet in combination are driving us into this pit. I recently saw that the average U.S. teen interfaces with media 31 hours per week. This includes TV watching, internet use, mobile devices and video games.
Change the way you live, and you can alter the life path you currently travel. I preach to my patients that chiropractic care is part of a wellness program that includes proper diet, exercise and a healthy mental outlook. There is a reason that clichés become clichés. Treat your body like a temple, and that temple will stand for a long time.”
Look for a follow-up article on healthy choices and strategies to begin to combat this epidemic.
Those seeking additional information regarding this study may contact Steven Long, DC, directly at 4359 Town Center Blvd., Suite 213, El Dorado Hills, or via telephone at (916) 933-4507.