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Childhood Obesity Prevention: Keep Tabs on Kids' Weight

Childhood Obesity Prevention: Keep Tabs on Kids' Weight

Childhood obesity is rising faster than the national debt. About 1 in 5 school-age kids are obese—1 in 3 in some cities. You might think that even if "baby fat" is still accumulating in elementary school, kids don't run the same scary health risks that adults do. There's time to turn things around, right? Not so much.

Heart disease isn't for grown-ups any more. If you have overweight preteens, they can have heart disease by age 15 or 16, according to new research. And although girls' heart health seems to bounce back to normal if their weight does, in boys, cardio dangers can hang on.

Ready? Help your child get healthy now:

  1. Do as I do. Kids are often like a video camera with the sound off: They tune out what you say but watch everything you do. If you and your partner are obese, there's an 80 percent chance your kids will be, too. So ditch the junk and be a role model.
  2. Relax as you eat. Family meals should be fun. Playful conversation ("Hear any good jokes today? What superpower do you wish you had?") allows everyone to slow down and savor the meal, so the brain has time to signal, "You're full"—before you overeat.
  3. Make life a playground. Pumping up activity is critical to losing weight. Turn off the TV, and get the whole family outside for a game of touch football (there's a reason the Kennedy clan stayed thin) or a walk around the block.

Medically reviewed in January 2020.

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