Obesity is a national problem. Some studies indicate that two-thirds of adults and more than one-third of children are overweight. The health consequences of excess weight are serious and far-reaching.

Obesity in children and in the elderly require special consideration because both groups have needs that are different from young or middle-aged adults.

Children are at risk of developing chronic conditions related to obesity (especially high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes). However, children also have an increased risk of developing these conditions and others (arthritis, heart disease) once they have reached adulthood because of the length of time their bodies have been carrying extra weight.

Most children are at peril for becoming overweight simply because of the time in which they live. The twenty-first century is characterized by high stress and busy schedules. Food needs are often met at fast food restaurants where the menu is likely to be high fat, high sodium, and high sugar. In addition, again because of busy schedules on the parts of children as well as adults, exercise and physical activity are usually the first things to be "thrown under the bus".

Certain conditions make a child more likely to become obese than peers. For example, low birth weight, obesity or diabetes in the mother, and maternal smoking during pregnancy. Girls after puberty are particularly prone to storage of fat and subsequent obesity.

Children who are obese are at risk of developing psychological problems. Depression, low self-esteem, poor self- image, anxiety, and social maladjustment are more frequent among children who are overweight than among their thinner peers. Obese children likely to become obese adolescents and then, obese adults. Behavioral therapy may be needed if dietary management is not adequate. Parents can check with the school and community because many programs are available for little or no cost.

The elderly also constitute a group which require particular attention to weight control. As the body ages, muscle is lost and fat is particularly likely to accumulate around the abdomen because of hormonal changes and inactivity.

Accumulation of fat around the abdomen is particularly alarming because it is often a predictor of other diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease as well.

Most communities or public facilities for the aged can refer caregivers to programs which aid in appropriate nutrition and exercise programs geared toward the elderly. The maintenance of healthy weight and general fitness contribute to the quality of life for seniors and those who are responsible for their care.

Get them to stop drinking sugary pop today! Your child be on his way to the ideal weight!

By Sue Bristol, R.N.

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