How do you define obesity?
Obesity is not just a matter of a few extra pounds. It is a clinically defined health condition deserving evidence-based treatment. As defined by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), obesity is recognized when a child’s Body Mass Index (BMI)* reaches at more than the average range for his or her peers. The CDC’s age-for-growth charts account for changes in body mass as children grow, as well as differences in the amount of body mass for girls and boys.
Our program focuses on children and adolescents ages 5 to 18 whose BMI is equal to or greater than the 95th percentile. We also treat children and teens considered overweight rather than obese – that is, those whose BMI is between the 85th and 95th percentile – if they have weight-related medical conditions such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure.
*BMI is calculated as weight in pounds divided by height in inches times 703.
What causes obesity?
When more calories are taken in than the body can use, the unused calories are stored as fat. When this occurs repeatedly over time, obesity can develop. Many factors come into play: overeating and a poor diet, lack of exercise, medical issues such as endocrine or neurological problems, medications such as steroids and certain psychiatric drugs, depression or emotional problems, family and social stressors, or a family history of obesity.
Our culture plays a role, too. The prevalence of fast food, enlarged portions and inactive forms of entertainment (television, computers, cell phones) contributes to the rise in obesity across America.
What are the health consequences of obesity in kids and teenagers?
The consequences of pediatric obesity can include:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Joint pain
- Sleep apnea
- Poor self-esteem
When obese children grow up to be obese adults, the risk of related health problems only escalates. The health risks for obese adults include all of the conditions listed above, plus heart disease, stroke, several types of cancer, infertility, osteoarthritis and other issues.