Once again, the perils of childhood obesity are making headlines. We already know that children who are obese are at higher risk for type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and certain cancers. It also puts children at higher risk for cardiovascular disease, and the most recent study from the University of Pristina, in Kosovo, shows that children who are obese may have already suffered lasting heart damage, including thicker walls and impaired systolic and diastolic function.
Wales is fourth, only behind the USA, Canada, and Greece for childhood obesity rates. One in five 15-year-olds in Wales are either overweight or obese. This is a huge increase since a previous study in Wales in 2003 showed of the rate childhood obesity at one in ten. For boys, this figure rises to 26%. One in eight children does not get any exercise or physical activity. These health risks will have a serious impact on their quality of life, and will only get worse if the problem is not addressed now.
Good nutrition and healthy lifestyles begin at home. Introducing children to healthy foods, and new foods that they may not have tried, can inspire them to continue with healthy eating throughout their lives. Encouraging physical activity will improve heart health and reduce the risks associated with obesity.
Our health care system is also at risk if this trend continues. The cost of treating obesity-related illnesses is growing, and our already stretched NHS could breathe better without the added burden of treating more preventable illnesses. It is imperative that parents, doctors, schools, and the community as a whole take action now on the childhood obesity epidemic before irreversible damage is done, and to prevent a lifetime of health woes for future generations.