Obesity is one of the most prevalent health complications around the world. Not only is obesity widespread among adults, but childhood obesity is also a prominent societal concern. The UAE, in particular, have much reason to concern as the statistics here are more so alarming compared to the rest of the world.

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Obesity levels in the UAE are as high as 37% of the total population. This is almost double the world average. With that being said, it’s important to address childhood obesity before it carries over into adulthood and causing detrimental health complications. 

A child can be classified as obese when their body mass index (BMI) is proportionately higher than the average norm of children at their age. Your body mass index can be calculated and measured by a general practitioner. They will be able to make the call based on your child’s weight and height. You can suspect that your child is obese if:

  • They wear clothes that are larger than most children their age
  • Difficulty performing physical tasks and activities
  • Difficulty when physically keeping up with other children
  • Eating considerably larger portions then a child should be
  • Heavy breathing
  • Easily becoming tired
  • Pain in joints or muscles
  • Feels embarrassed, ashamed, or isolated

Possible Complications That May Arise

Childhood obesity

Childhood obesity can pose the same threat as regular adulthood obesity. What’s worse is that your child’s body and the immune system are not as developed to combat the chronic health complications that an adult would.

Poor dieting habits and inability to control childhood obesity can lead to adulthood obesity and accelerate the complications associated with obesity once they reach adulthood. Complications of obesity include:

1. Type 2 Diabetes

This is a condition that is strongly linked with obesity. Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body is unable to metabolize glucose properly. This can lead to nerve damage, eye, kidney, and heart disease.

Type 2 diabetes increases drastically in risk for overweight children and adults. Do keep in mind that it is possible to reverse the condition through appropriate diet and lifestyle changes.

2. Heart Disease

Childhood obesity can spike cholesterol levels and blood pressure. This can eventuate in heart disease as well as possible heart attack or stroke. Poor diets with foods that are high in fat and salt are the usual suspects for the spike in cholesterol. 

3. Joint Pain

Due to the excess weight the child is carrying on their body, stiffness in joints is likely to occur and can become more painful as the weight increases. A limited range of motion may cause stiffness to persist or worsen.

4. Sleep Disorders

Children who are overweight or obese may show obvious signs of sleep disorders. This can be apparent in snoring or sleep apnea. Causes for sleep disorders maybe the extra weight in the neck and chin area blocking their airways.

5. Mental Health Concerns

As being obese can make a child physically stand out among peers, it may make them an easy target for bullying, or makes your child feel isolated or indifferent among their classmates.

It may make them feel ashamed, guilty, alone, and also scared. These mental health concerns can stem into more serious disorders, including depression and anxiety, which can further develop into adulthood.

6. Asthma

Most children who are obese may also suffer from asthma as they are often linked to each other. Although more research needs to be conducted on the link between obesity and asthma, many believe that obesity can contribute to the development of asthma in children and adults.

How Parents Can Prevent Childhood Obesity

Childhood obesity

1. Regular Exercise

Exercise and physical activity are fundamental when managing weight and preventing obesity. It can be as simple as going for a walk. Enrolling your child in a team sport is also a great way to encourage them to get moving. As long as they are outdoors and burning calories, the chances of obesity can significantly decrease.

2. Better Dieting Habits

Getting rid of junk food and eating out a lot less can help with managing a healthy weight. Aim for foods that are nutritious, filling, and fresh. Whole foods such as whole grains, lean meats, and natural fats will help with managing weight, improving digestion, and keeping blood pressure and cholesterol levels in check. 

3. Set an Example

The best way to keep your child disciplined, focused, and dedicated to their improved lifestyle and avoiding obesity is to lead by example. Show your child how to manage their health better, and they can follow from your example. Your own personal health will also improve in the process.

When to See a Doctor

Childhood obesity

If you suspect your child is overweight or showing signs that they may be obese, visit your doctor to get advice based on their personal health condition. Getting regular check-ups with their GP is also ideal as it can monitor their weight as they grow and ensure that they are growing up well without the possible health concerns that may be going undetected.

Head over to the Okadoc app to immediately book an appointment with your health practitioner.