In 1960, about 10 percent of adult Americans were obese, overweight by 35 pounds or more. In 2012, the number has more than tripled at roughly 38 percent. Now, recent studies have revealed that American children are suffering from obesity and elevated cholesterol levels with ominous implications in the future. In America elevated cholesterol in children has increased to all time high levels.
So alarming are the findings that the Association of American Pediatrics has suggested that cholesterol screening should be convened at the age of three. The research was conducted on more than 12,000 children ranging in age from 9 to 11 years old. More than 30 percent of the children had elevated cholesterol levels and these levels may well increase as these “at risk” children age into adulthood. Researchers found that 1 to 2 percent of high cholesterol in children was inherited and due to problems with cholesterol regulation.
According to Steven Nissen, chairmen of the cardiovascular department in Cleveland Ohio, “there is no question that obesity and high cholesterol levels among children and adolescents is increasing at an alarming rate.” The study also found that not only did children have elevated “bad cholesterol” children also had lower levels of so called “good cholesterol.”
Participants in the study came from various ethnic, economic and cultural backgrounds and the research took place over a seven year period. It goes without saying that obesity increases the risk of having elevated cholesterol levels at any age.
More boys than girls in the study had elevated cholesterol levels. Typically, heart disease emerges in adulthood; however, the risk factors such as elevated cholesterol levels and obesity develop in childhood and adolescence. The concern among health researchers is escalating because as a nation, we are in the second decade where too many children and adolescents are experiencing being overweight or obese. The implications for these millions of Americans are very unsettling as they begin to age. Another indicator related to obesity is the sharp increase in type two diabetes among young Americans. Beyond the human cost and suffering that many of these Americans will encounter, the costs of these encounters may bring a frightful cost to the American health care system.
Public Health Officials, Doctors, Researchers and Nutritionists agree that children’s health statistics continue to be discouraging in spite of a variety of educational and awareness campaigns including a recent initiative by first Lady Michelle Obama. While significant efforts have been aimed at children, some health officials feel that more needs to be done to educate parents on this important issue. As in all things American, we want it yesterday if not sooner. Highly processed and sugar laden foods have had a very damaging effect on children’s health. Public Health officials want to reinforce an old message about “whole foods.” These are foods that are not processed such as fresh fruits, vegetables, whole wheat rice and pastas. It is a return to the eating habits of Americans for many years before highly processed foods that are typically eaten right out of the package or prepared in the microwave oven. Eating healthy certainly presents difficulties, very often the healthiest foods are expensive and sometimes have a limited shelf life as they are lacking preservatives and are fresh foods. The best time to habituate someone to a behavior is when they are young.
Rather than drenching pancakes in heavy fake syrup, top them with just a little real maple syrup and add a few fresh berries. Buy un-sugared cereals and instead add fresh fruit to cereals. Healthy snacks could include mixed nuts for crunch mixed with dried, un-sugared fruits. Try slicing apples into slices and apply peanut butter rather than the crunch of potato chips. Starting your children off on this footing will be much easier than walking away from junk food behaviors that are deeply ingrained. Still, it is not impossible and when the future health of your child is in the balance, it is well worth your best effort.
For a long time we have known that over processed food is not good for anyone, we also know that adequate exercise promotes health. Now with children spending ever increasing hours before television, games systems and cell phones, parents must regulate these activities to create a “healthy balance.
Hopefully, these recent findings will serve as a final wake up call to action. The anti-smoking campaign in America has been very successful and the lessons learned there can be applied to this pressing issue. The future of many American children and our national health and vitality may depend on a more vigorous application of resources in reducing school age obesity and its attendant diseases.
Remember, all kids count.
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