|By Dr. Marc S. Stevens, MD, FACS, FICS
In 2004, Obesity was ranked as the number one health risk facing America by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and was believed to be responsible for 400,000 deaths in the USA. The CDC goes on to state that the battle of obesity is complicated even more by related illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, osteoarthritis and chronic pain. These complications become even more troubling when you apply them to children. Children and adolescents with extra pounds have often begun a path filled with health problems that were once only found in adults. It is true that some childhood obesity is the result of genetic and hormonal causes, but physical problems only account for 1% of obese children.
The majority of cases are the consequences of poor eating habits, overeating and a lack of exercise. Perhaps the most basic understanding of the cause of obesity is the consumption of more calories than the body can burn. A child in an environment of poor eating habits and a lack of physical stimulation, will be prone to add unhealthy pounds. For parents, the responsibility is certainly real. Research has shown that a child in a home with one obese parent has a 50% chance of growing up obese. If that home has two obese parents the danger increases to 80%.
As an Orthopedic Surgeon, I see the difficulties that obesity brings on a daily basis in my clinic. Obese and overweight patients come into my clinic with a variety of orthopedic needs ranging from stressed knees, and damaged ankles. All due to the excess demand placed upon their bones and joints by being overweight or obese. As an Orthopedic Surgeon I have the tools and training to help with their pain, but I also know that if nothing is done to meet the need of their excess weight I am likely to see them again in a few months with the same issues. It has become important to me to bring a greater awareness to childhood obesity, with the purpose of preventing the struggles and side effects of a life dealing with obesity.
Because child obesity is often a family struggle, making healthy eating and physical activity a family priority is essential in changing the life of an overweight or obese child. The first step, is beginning a programmed weight management program with better eating habits . This includes planned meals with better food selections and controlled portions to decrease calorie intake. Controlled portions must be balanced with proper nutrition so that the nutritional level of the body is maintained. As a physician I stress to my patients that a “ healthy diet plan is the best diet plan.” Crash dieting for children is dangerous and can have lasting negative side effects, so a physician recommended diet program is something each parent should look too for the health of their child.