Childhood obesity occurs when a child’s weight is too high for their height. This condition is dangerous because it puts the child at risk for health problems that may affect them throughout their life, including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes. In addition, obese children often struggle with mental health issues, including depression and low self-esteem. Children who suffer from obesity are also more likely to remain obese as an adult.
Dr. Veras Pola determines whether a child is obese by comparing their body mass index, or BMI, to the BMI of peers. BMI is a measure of body fat calculated based on the child’s weight and height. However, parents should note that target BMIs for children are different than those for an adult. A child’s normal BMI will depend on their age.
Children are considered overweight if their BMI is above the 85th percentile for their age. Children with a BMI above the 95th percentile are considered obese. Dr. Veras Pola can provide more detailed information about an individual child’s BMI and what it means for their overall health.
If Dr. Veras Pola determines that a child’s weight is higher than it should be, he will typically recommend lifestyle changes designed to help the child return to a healthy weight. For example, he may recommend that the child participate in more physical activity, reduce their computer and TV time, and spend more time outdoors. He may also recommend making changes to the child’s diet, such as fewer sweets and more fruits and vegetables.
One of the best ways to help a child with obesity to return to a healthy weight is to change the lifestyle of the entire family. Parents should make healthier meals, reduce the amount of junk food in the house, and encourage children to drink water instead of soda. Parents should also model healthy behaviors and exercise regularly. To encourage participation, parents should design healthy activities that are fun for the entire family, such as bicycling or hiking trips.