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Help kids make healthy choices

Obesity in childhood can lead to heart disease later in life

One in every four adult deaths in the U.S. is from heart disease, and a large proportion of that staggering statistic is related to obesity from unhealthy diet and lack of exercise. In Kentucky, 32 percent to 44 percent of adults are obese. 

If an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, perhaps we should shift the focus to preventing poor health outcomes in children by tackling childhood obesity. In Kentucky, 34 percent of our school-age children are obese. Pediatric obesity is when a child’s body mass index (BMI) is at or above the 95th percentile, and being overweight is defined as BMI in the 85th-94th percentile. 

Obesity is normally caused by the overconsumption of refined carbohydrates, sugars and fats. Fat in foods such as red meats, egg yolks, and butter turns into low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in the blood. Starchy foods such as lightly colored breads, cereals and pastas, and high-sugar foods and drinks turn into triglycerides in the blood. Both of these types of cholesterol build up in the arteries, causing the arteries to narrow; blood flow subsequently decreases. Low blood flow equals low oxygen flow, and without oxygen, portions of muscles—such as the heart—die. 

A pediatrician can help children who are overweight or obese learn to reduce their BMI and prevent poor health outcomes, such as heart disease, hypertension, fatty liver disease, Type 2 diabetes and sleep apnea. Talk to a pediatrician about preventing and treating these conditions and how to help your children and grandchildren make healthy choices.

Morgan Chojnaki is a doctor of nursing practice at UK’s Pediatric High BMI Clinic.

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