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Overweight children at more risk for major diseases

By Kelli Bonifer

The number of overweight young people continuestogrow in Kentucky and nationwide, reaching epidemicproportions. This trend increases childrens andadolescentsrisks for some major diseases and, sometimes,psychologicalstresses.

Kentucky children rank among the highest in theUnited States for being overweight, according to severalnational and regional studies. More than 25 percent ofourpre-school children either are overweight or at risk forbecoming overweight, according to a study by theLieutenantGovernors Task Force on Childhood Obesity andNutrition.

Further, children in Kentucky are one-half to twotimesmore likely to be overweight than their nationalcounterparts,according to data on pediatric overweight in Kentuckyfromseveral sources.

Nationwide, the percentage of overweight childrenhas more than doubled from seven percent to 15 percentduring the past 20 years. The proportion of overweightteenagers tripled from 5 to 15 percent in this sametimeframe.

Overweight in youth ages six to 19 years isdefinedas a gender- and age-specific ratio at or above the 95thpercentile on growth charts of the Centers for DiseaseControl and Prevention.

Overweight children and adolescents are atincreasedrisks for such diseases as asthma, type 2 diabetes, highblood pressure, and sleep apnea, a disorder causing briefbreathing interruptions during sleep and associated withdecreased learning and memory functions. Beingoverweightalso is associated with low self-esteem in someadolescents.

The economic costs related to excess body weightinchildren ages six through 17 years also are increasing.Hospitalization expenses for diseases associated withbeingoverweight have more than tripled in 20 years.

Even worse, overweight children are 10 times morelikely to become obese adults. The percentage ofobese adults has almost doubled from 15 percent to 27percent in the past 20 years. Obese adults are at risk forseveral major health conditions including diabetes, heartdisease, high blood pressure, stroke, gall bladder disease,several types of cancer, and osteoarthritis. The stress ofbeing an overweight adult also has been linked toreducedincome and discrimination.

For more information on healthy weight for childrenand adults, contact the Adair County CooperativeExtension Service.

You also can obtain information from the GrowingHealthy Kids in Kentucky web site at

GHKK is astatewidepartnership of the Kentucky Cooperative ExtensionService,Kentucky Department for Public Health and KentuckyDieteticAssociation.

It will have a conference this fall on toolscommunities can use to reduce childhood overweight.Illhave more information on this conference in a futurecolumn.

Educational programs of the Kentucky CooperativeExtension Service serve all people regardless of race,color,age, sex, religion, disability or national origin.

---Kelli Bonifer

County Extension Agent for Family & Consumer Sciences
Adair County Cooperative Extension Service
PHONE: (270) 384-2317
FAX: (270) 384-9167

Healthy Lifestyle advice is sponsored by Westlake Regional Hospital, an acute-care, JCAHO-accredited hospital serving Adair County since 1980. For more information, phone 270-384-4753 or visit the Westlake website by clicking on the IOP logo in the top right corner of this web site, or going to

This story was posted on 2004-03-27 20:15:12
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