Obesity rates in children continue to increase. BMI of 30+ is considered morbidly obese (or life threatening). This chart ends at age 19, but the trend of gaining weight continues into their adulthood. Teaching your children better lifestyles can reverse this condition.
Children are at risk for early onset chronic disease due to obesity
In previous generations, the medical profession had few occasions to monitor children for adult health issues. Today, children are experiencing increasing problems with high blood pressure, high cholesterol and other health problems related to obesity. Although obesity is ever increasing in children, many times our health care system is lagging behind in identification and approved treatment.
Obesity is the main cause for kids being at risk for Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Children are classified as overweight who are above the 85th percentile for age and sex. To be classified as obese, a child’ BMI will be over the 95th percentile for age and sex or their weight is greater than 120% over ideal for height(1) But being at risk for diabetes is much more than just a weight issue.
First: If one or both parents have been diagnosed with diabetes, then the child has the genetics putting them at risk for diabetes.
According to the SEARCH study, at least 75% of youth diagnosed with type 2 have at least one close family member who has diabetes. (Close family members include mother father sisters or brothers.) (searchfordiabetes.org)
Second: If the child’s BMI (body mass index) is over 28, it indicates that their life-style places them at additional risk for diseases. Our current medical community focuses on prevention of disease. Weight related problems can start as early as the teens years.
Severe Obesity: Today, many are using the term “severe” obesity. Previously classified as morbid obesity the health implications are still real. The American Diabetes Assoc. has documented cases of 4 year old being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes due to severe obesity. It has not been determined how quickly the complications from high blood sugars will develop.
BMI can be misleading on its own. You should also consider waist circumference. (http://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/assessing/bmi/childrens_bmi/about_childrens_bmi.html)
Third: If they have high blood pressure. This one is tricky because blood pressure can be affected by many things including anxiety. If you or your child become anxious about going to the doctor, then chances are your blood pressure will be elevated. Taking several deep breaths before taking the blood pressure can help. It is important to get an accurate reading.
If you would like to monitor a child’s blood pressure, there are automatic machines available at most pharmacies and many department stores. I recommend using one of these machines because they are more reliable (ensure accurate readings) as compared to home monitors. Doctors are wanting blood pressure reading less than the 90th percentile on at least three measurements.(2) You can refer to the CDC guidelines for these recommended values.
The rule of thumb for children age 7-15 years old is: multiple 2 times your child’s age and add 90. This gives you the median for systolic pressure (the upper number). For the diastolic (lower number) substrate 30-45 from your systolic number. This is just an average number, the number you get is probably can be higher or lower (for more information see: www.fpnotebook.com/legacy/CV/Exam/pdtrcVt1Sgns.htm)
Fourth: Dyslipidemia Now that is a big word! It means high cholesterol or high triglycerides. You need a fasting blood test to check for these conditions. Ask your doctor for this information.
Fifth: High Blood Sugar. Teens with a fasting blood glucose (FBG) 100 – 125 mg/dL
or a random blood test greater than 199 mg/dL are at risk.
Children younger than their teens should consult your pediatrician for this information.
A1C is a non-fasting blood test. The results varies with the age of your child.
A1C is not recommended to use to diagnose diabetes in children so it may not be covered by insurance. It is a good indicator if your teen’s tolerance to sugar is a problem. Younger children run higher blood sugars and the A1C test is not recommended for them. The reading for A1C are determined by the age of the child and industry standards have NOT be determined (as of this writing).
American Diabetes Association recommends testing asymptomatic youth for Type 2 if they are overweight plus any 2 of the following risk factors:
- Diabetes screening should be repeated every three years.
- Family history of Type 2 in first or second degree relatives
- Native American, Latino, African American, Asian or Pacific Islander ethnicity
- Mother with a history of gestational diabetes during the child’s gestation
- Signs of insulin resistance or conditions associated with insulin resistance including
acanthosis nigricans, hypertension, dyslipidemia, polycystic ovary syndrome or small for gestational age birth weight(3)
Symptoms of high blood sugar include:
- Unusual Thirst (they can’t drink enough)
- Frequent urination (going to the bathroom more than once in the night)
- Headaches, especially after eating sugary foods
- Tired, no energy; especially after a meal
- Unusually hungry; (I have seen these kids start eating two full lunches – this indicates a hormone imbalance)
- Anxious (there are times when they want food NOW)
1) American Diabetes Association. Standards of medical care in diabetes – 2013. Diabetes Care. 2013;36 (suppl 1): S11-S66.
2) Expert Panel on Integrated Guidelines for Cardiovascular Health and Risk Reduction in Children and Adolescents; National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Expert Panel on Integrated Guidelines for Cardiovascular Health and Risk Reduction in Children and Adolescents: summary report. Pediatrics. 2011;128 (suppl 5):S213-S256.
3) American Diabetes Association. Diabetes Care. 2013;36 (suppl 1) S11-S66
The Health Effects of Overweight and Obesity
People who are obese, compared to those with a normal or healthy weight, are at increased risk for many serious diseases and health conditions, including the following:1,2,3
- All-causes of death (mortality)
- High blood pressure (Hypertension)
- High LDL cholesterol, low HDL cholesterol, or high levels of triglycerides (Dyslipidemia)
- Type 2 diabetes
- Coronary heart disease
- Gallbladder disease
- Osteoarthritis (a breakdown of cartilage and bone within a joint)
- Sleep apnea and breathing problems
- Some cancers (endometrial, breast, colon, kidney, gallbladder, and liver)
- Low quality of life
- Mental illness such as clinical depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders4,5
- Body pain and difficulty with physical functioning6
For more information about these and other health problems associated with overweight and obesity, visit Clinical Guidelines on the Identification, Evaluation, and Treatment of Overweight and Obesity in Adults[PDF-1.25MB].
Want to learn more?
What Are the Health Risks of Overweight and Obesity?Learn about the risks for adults from many diseases and conditions, by National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NIH).
Weight Loss – American Diabetes Association*Did you know that nearly 9 out of 10 people with newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes are overweight? If you are overweight, losing some weight could help you better manage your diabetes.
CDC’s Obesity and OverweightObesity trends, economic consequences, state-based programs and other resources for the health professional.
*Overweight is defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or higher; obesity is defined as a BMI of 30 or higher.
3Bhaskaran K, Douglas I, Forbes H, dos-Santos-Silva I, Leon DA, Smeeth L. Body-mass index and risk of 22 specific cancers: a population-based cohort study of 5•24 million UK adults. Lancet. 2014 Aug 30;384(9945):755-65. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(14)60892-8. Epub 2014 Aug 13.
4Kasen, Stephanie, et al. “Obesity and psychopathology in women: a three decade prospective study.” International Journal of Obesity 32.3 (2008): 558-566.
5Luppino, Floriana S., et al. “Overweight, obesity, and depression: a systematic review and meta-analysis of longitudinal studies.”Archives of general psychiatry 67.3 (2010): 220-229.
6Roberts, Robert E., et al. “Prospective association between obesity and depression: evidence from the Alameda County Study.” International journal of obesity 27.4 (2003): 514-521.