Obesity Weighs Heavily on Kid Hearts

Cardiovascular risk factors in children may be improved by helping them achieve a healthy weight

(RxWiki News) An estimated one out of three children is overweight or obese in the US. To address this problem, many pediatricians from around the country gathered to discuss approaches that may help.

Among the ideas shared, pediatricians suggested that parents make healthy choices about the foods and drinks they decide to buy for the home.

They also suggested limiting screen time (TV, computer and video games) for their children.

"Serve healthy foods to your children."

At the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) National Conference and Exhibition in Orlando, Florida, at the end of October, pediatricians shared ideas on how they can work together with families to best tackle obesity in childhood and adolescence and reduce the conditions that lead to heart disease.

Stephen Daniels, MD, chairman of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Aurora, spoke about cardiovascular health during the symposium "Heavy Challenges for Healthy Hearts.”

Dr. Daniels said that type 2 diabetes, obstructive sleep apnea, high blood pressure, lipid abnormalities and high cholesterol are linked to obesity in childhood. Treating these conditions is essential to preventing heart disease and other chronic conditions, according to Dr. Daniels.

Because young people may have elevated cholesterol and signs of atherosclerosis (narrowed arteries), the AAP has endorsed guidelines from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, urging that all children undergo cholesterol screening at least once between the ages of 9 and 11, and again between the ages of 17 and 21.

The screening is especially important for children who are very overweight.

"If you have a child with obesity, you should know what his or her blood pressure and cholesterol levels are," said Dr. Daniels in a press release. He added that genetic abnormalities may be a cause of high cholesterol in children as well.

He admitted that our "environment" poses great challenges to weight reduction, pointing to high-calorie drink and food options and “things that keep kids from being active [e.g., TV and video games].”

Dr. Daniels told dailyRx News, “Much of childhood obesity is about eating and activity behaviors that result in too many calories in the diet and not enough burned off with activity. There are many high-calorie foods and drinks such as sugar-sweetened beverages that families should reduce or eliminate from their diet.

He continued, "In order to help children and families make these changes, pediatricians need to work to understand what the issues are for these families that support these behaviors so they can work together to make changes.”

Dr. Daniels advised that parents can change the home food and drink environment by changing which foods they buy and bring into the house. "They can limit screen time that kids are allowed each day," he said. "These kinds of interventions can help to dramatically influence healthy behaviors."

In separate comments to dailyRx News, Stephen Pont, MD, a pediatrician from Austin, Texas and the chair of the AAP Section on Obesity, said, "Folks who are challenged by their weight frequently experience a great deal weight bias, guilt and blame for their weight by our society. However, guilt and blame are not effective motivators for behavior change, they just make people feel worse and often paralyzed.

"If we hope to help folks make healthy changes then they must feel comfortable in our offices, and know that they won't feel judged or blamed," Dr. Pont said.

He suggested that pediatricians need to partner with their patients and their families to help them brainstorm effective healthy changes that will work for them specifically, rather than simply telling them what to do.

The special symposium on child and adolescent obesity was held on October 27 at the American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference and Exhibition in Orlando.

Review Date: 
October 27, 2013