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Our Children’s Health in Danger

Medical school education in the early ‘80s did not tell us much about diabetes, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, high cholesterol, or sleep apnea in children. The new obesity epidemic, with poor diets and lack of consistent exercise routines, has made our children and youth vulnerable to premature mortality, to ailments that were usually diseases of the aging population.

Not recognizing the problem is a huge barrier to making progress. Parents who are overweight seem to blame the issue on genetics. Often, being overweight is considered a sign of prosperity and referred to as ‘healthy’ in our desi culture. Sometimes parents think their kids will outgrow this phase as they grow older, only to discover that the problem worsens when they head to college. The lack of physical education in public schools may be partly to blame and poor choices of lunch programs can be another hurdle. Schools attempting to serve unprocessed foods and fresh fruits and vegetables are frequently met with rebellious parents and kids who wish to continue the old bad habits.

I was shocked when a parent logged in 3,000 calories a day, when their middle schooler made a partial list of what she ate daily. An epidemiologist at one of the Adult and Pediatric Lipid clinics in Detroit recommends that pre-puberty children should consume no more than 2,000 calories a day. Girls in high school should consume no more than 1,500 calories a day, and boys about 2,000. Those engaged in aggressive sports should add an extra 300 calories a day.

Why is this important? Well, there must be some reason if First Lady Michelle Obama took on tackling childhood obesity as her mission. Here is a short summary of why I think this needs the serious attention of any parent:

HEART DISEASE currently is our number one enemy, taking away huge numbers of resources and dollars that could be used for clinical research in cancer and Alzheimer’s, which are two noncommunicable diseases that are recognized as morbid conditions of our century. Pediatricians are encouraged to check lipid profiles for their patients at age 9 through 11 and then again in their precollege years. College and university life pose great lifestyle changes, often encouraging weight gain in almost 80 percent of students.

DIABETES TYPE 2

HYPERTENSION

FATTY LIVER

OSTEOPOROSIS

DIABETES TYPE 2

HYPERTENSION

FATTY LIVER

OSTEOPOROSIS

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