Childhood Obesity: Why it Matters and What Parents Need to Know

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A glance around the park, the mall or the classroom confirms what statistics say: the incidence of childhood obesity is on the rise. The prevalence of overweight children, ages 6 to 11, has doubled in the last two decades. For teens, incidence has tripled.

A glance around the park, the mall or the classroom confirms what statistics say: the incidence of childhood obesity is on the rise. The prevalence of overweight children, ages 6 to 11, has doubled in the last two decades. For teens, incidence has tripled.

MayoClinic.com has launched a new, in-depth section that covers this trend and the long-term health implications for overweight youngsters. Obesity in children has the same root cause as obesity in adults: consuming too many calories and not exercising enough. But determining if a child's weight is a health concern might take more than a look at the waistline, and solutions might not include traditional dieting.

Highlights of the section, which has been reviewed by Mayo Clinic specialists in children's health and weight management, include:

Diagnosis: Calculating a child's body mass index is one tool to diagnose a weight problem, but it doesn't take into account the child's growth, development or body frame size. A child's activity level and eating habits are part of the mix, too. Concerned parents should seek medical advice to determine when excess weight might pose a health risk.

Health risks: An overweight child often has to deal with taunts from peers. But there are long-term health risks as well. Obesity at a young age can lead to diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, asthma complications and other health concerns.

Treatment options: For a young overweight child, maintaining current weight can be an appropriate strategy, while allowing the child to grow into the appropriate weight. For others, losing weight may be necessary. Weight-loss medications and surgery are rarely recommended for youth, even for teens.

Prevention: Physical activity is a key component of weight management for children. Parents should emphasize varied, fun activities that get children moving. (Don't call it exercise!) Limiting time in front of a television or computer screen each day leaves time for more active pursuits. Banning foods probably isn't the answer and neither are power struggles over what to eat or not eat.

For more information, visit http://www.MayoClinic.com.

About MayoClinic.com

Launched in 1995 and now visited by more than 9 million users a month, this award-winning consumer Web site offers health information, self-improvement, and disease management tools to empower people to manage their health. Produced by a team of Web professionals and medical experts working side by side, MayoClinic.com gives users access to the experience and knowledge of the more than 2,000 physicians and scientists of Mayo Clinic. MayoClinic.com offers users intuitive, easy access tools such as "Symptom Checker" and "First-Aid Guide" for fast answers about health conditions ranging from common to complex; as well as more in-depth sections on more than 25 common diseases and conditions, a wealth of healthy living articles, videos, animations and features such as "Ask a Specialist" and "Drug Watch." Users can sign up for a free weekly e-newsletter, "Housecall," which provides the latest health information from Mayo Clinic. For more information, visit http://www.MayoClinic.com.

To obtain the latest news releases from Mayo Clinic, go to http://www.mayoclinic.org/news. MayoClinic.com (http://www.mayoclinic.com) is available as a resource for your health stories.

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Ginger Plumbo
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