One of the most serious problems facing public health in the 21st century is obesity among children. Such kids are prone to this issue in adulthood. They are more likely to have non-communicable illnesses such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. Overweight and obesity, as well as related sicknesses, are largely preventable. Therefore, the prevention of obesity of children and its treatment should be a priority task. The paper will discuss this problem in kids, its developmental stage, as well as implications and treatment options.
Description of Obesity in Children
The rise of childhood obesity during the last several decades along with the associated social costs and health problems provokes a great concern among policy experts, parents, children's advocates, and care professionals. There is a tendency of increasing the level of obese kids. According to Merry and Voight, almost 32 % of US children and adolescents are overweight or obese. Disse and Zimmer emphasize that child obesity is growing to an epidemic level.
Childhood obesity is a condition, in which a kid's body weight is above the age norm. Obesity and overweight in adults are defined in terms of body mass index (BMI), which in turn is defined as weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared. Obesity is the accumulation of large amounts of body fat. It leads to a significant increase in body weight in comparison with normal. The high fat levels in the body can cause serious health problems. The main symptom of obesity is an increase in weight. Moreover, there are obvious areas of fat deposits throughout the body. The adipose tissue can be deposited in places of physiological stocks, as well as in the area of breasts, thighs, and abdomen. Obesity is divided into degrees (the number of adipose tissue) and types (depending on the reasons that lead to its development). There are two forms of obesity in children: primary and secondary. Primary one may be nutritional, which is associated with a wrong diet, or exogenous-constitutional that is passed from parents. In the latter form, a child inherits not fat mass, but the characteristics of the course of metabolic processes in the organism.
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Description of Developmental Stage
There are dynamic and stabilization phases of obesity. Each of them is characterized by specific changes in metabolism and hormonal metabolism, differences in response to treatment. Dynamic obesity phase is a stage of weight gain. Sometimes, this one can last for decades. Weight gain may be invisible, but constant or sharp. The reason for the gradual weight increase is certainly an imbalance between supply and energy consumption as a result of overeating and a lack of physical activity. Sudden weight gain can have the same causes, for example, the termination of athletic training without changing caloric intake. However, also it can be a serious health disorder.
Food and beverages contain energy that is measured in calories. It is needed to maintain a physical activity and basic body functions, such as the breath. Healthy weight is achieved through a balance of consumption and spending energy of the body. Weight increase occurs when the number of consumed calories is greater than such ones that are needed for the organism's activities. If a flow of calories occurs regularly, it will lead to obesity. Imbalances occur most often by eating too much food, combined with a low level of physical activity.
The factors that may increase the risk of obesity in children and adolescents include sleep problems, such as a poor sleep or sleep deprivation. At the same time, the large birth weight is almost always considered a precondition for childhood obesity. The lack of exercises, mostly a sedentary activity (watching TV, playing computer or video games) inevitably leads to weight problems. Many children eat fast food and drink sugar-sweetened drinks, which have a negative influence on their health. Other factors of obesity are related to psychological problems. They include some issues in the family or with peers, low self-esteem, depression and other emotional problems. In addition, genetic factors, intake of certain medications, and specific disorders can be the reasons for obesity in kids. The downward trend in levels of physical activity is resulted by more widespread sedentary forms of leisure and entertainment, changing modes of transportation, and increasing urbanization.
The major pathogenic role in the development of conventional obesity is played by a dysfunction of the cerebral cortex and the hypothalamus and especially nerve structures in the posterior hypothalamus, a part of a food center. The essential role in the development of this problem can be played by a decrease in lipolysis (fat breakdown) as a result of predominance of the tone of the parasympathetic part of the autonomic nervous system. It leads to the stimulation of insulin with followed obesity.
Implications of Obesity and Children
Obesity is a serious disease with dangerous consequences. Excess weight in a child can lead to the appearance and, in the future, complications of various diseases. Such problems include high blood pressure, high cholesterol level, type 2 diabetes, asthma, eating disorders, depression, and even some issues of substance abuse. First of all, obesity is related to the disease of the cardiovascular and respiratory systems. Because of the extra weight and excess adipose tissue, there is an overload of the left chamber of the heart, to which the flow of blood increases as fat tissue is necessary to provide power. It induces the load at any movement, even in a breathing process. This process results in high blood pressure. The right chamber of the heart is also overloaded. The cause is abdominal pressure on the lungs, which prop heart. In addition, because of the excess adipose tissue, lungs rise too high. It leads to deterioration of the pulmonary ventilation. Lungs become overflowed with blood. The consequences of this are emphysema and frequent bronchitis.
The activity of the heart muscle decreases due to fat saturation. There is a negative impact on atherosclerosis of coronary arteries, which supply the heart with oxygen and nutrients. As a result, there is a developing coronary heart disease. High levels of cholesterol in the blood, the excess fat, and triglycerides provoke varicose expansion of veins. Obesity complicates a course of heart and lung diseases, like heart valve defect and asthma. The weakness even more limits a physical activity. There is a constant drowsiness. Obesity is complicated by a number of endocrine and metabolic disorders. It results in the development of gout, stones, and sand in kidneys, fatty liver, as well as inflammation of the pancreas.
Flatfoot, hunched back, the increased bending at the waist, and weak abdominal muscles are the issues not only in appearance, but in health. Children begin to feel pain in the feet. They refuse to walk and become lazy; the as well become prone to the sedentary life. Excess weight causes premature fatigue of joints: arthritis or osteoarthritis. There are also cosmetic problems: obese people often suffer from excessive sweating. All these consequences of obesity limit an ability of obese people to lead a full life.
The heightened attention should be given to psyche of kids, who suffer from this problem. They tend to be less independent and assertive, more dependent on the family, and emotionally immature. They have no power and strong will to comply with a weight loss regime. It is usually only children in the family or kids from single-parent families. Such adolescents are subjected to high attention. They are less hardened and pay much attention to their ailments. At school, in most cases, they manage well, but they are inactive and even lazy. During puberty, symptoms begin to interfere. Plump teens feel their difference from other children. They suffer from an inferiority complex, avoid dances and sporting events.
A man is a creature not only biological, but also social. An excessively fat child begins to feel an inferiority complex, being an awkward feeling among sporty peers. Finally, it becomes a target for ridicule. All this forms a vicious, grumpy, and uncommunicative character. The habit of eating more than it is required by the body often persists for life. Excessive fullness and attendant disease sometimes leads to the fact that a boy or a girl cannot always choose the profession that best suits his or her desires. They have their own interests to adapt to the opportunities that are associated with the peculiarities of the organism.
The consequences of obesity include constant anxiety and low self-esteem. Over time, a man pushes himself into social isolation. The fear of the views of others turns into willful expulsion of human society. Further, a person begins to fear to build relationships with other people. There is a fear of intimacy. If one remembers the time when he had a lower weight, it may give him hope and make him move forward. If a person is suffering from childhood obesity, the situation is much more tragic. Obesity along with despair and disbelief in the possibility of future changes can disfigure a person.
It is right to begin treatment of obesity in children with a visit to a specialist. A nutritionist appoints a detailed survey and conducts interviews with family members, finds eating habits and establishes the causes of weight gain. If there are concomitant diseases, their treatment will be included into a general course. In addition, the attention should be paid to a psychological state of the young patient. Obese children are often outcasts or general objects of ridicule in the companies.
The main treatments for childhood obesity are a diet and an exercise. Special medicines for weight loss in obese kids are rarely used. Their impact on the growing organism is not well studied. Surgery to treat obesity such as liposuction or gastric banding is also not carried out for children. Thus, the main way to lose weight for them and adolescents includes a diet and a physical activity.
Measures for the prevention of obesity are similar to its treatment. The main methods of preventing this issue are diet therapy and physical activity. The prevention of obesity in children should begin since infancy. It is not needed to over feed a baby constantly. Impaired metabolism will be more difficult to correct later. Food intake should be possible at the same time, at least 4 times a day. Parents have to encourage children to consume healthy foods, not fried potatoes, chips and soda. Many of today's young people prefer computer games and television instead of sport and physical education. The average 11-year-old spends 5.8 hours of their free time each day sitting in front of screens . It is important to motivate a child to exercise. Parents have to show their own example of healthy lifestyle.
The overweight and the heavy load are harmful to health and the body. In the today's world, the percentage of obese people is increasing year by year. The sad thing is that the cases of the disease in childhood are more common. It may occur due to an improper diet as eating habits that are instilled by adults and certain congenital or acquired conditions. Childhood obesity is a preventable condition. Therefore, it is important to pay attention to preventive measures. The most effective and simple means for a healthy life is prevention. Only the timely intervention can save a child from many diseases in the future.