Obesity not only affects our adult population. Teenage obesity affects upwards of 30% of children in America. That number is going higher each year as obesity has more than doubled in children and increased 4 fold in adolescents over the last 30 years. This is from a many factors including poor eating habits, a sedentary lifestyle, a family history of obesity, and overeating. Obesity then leads to a higher likelihood of depression, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, diabetes, among many other health and emotional issues. High blood pressure, for example, is rising at an alarming rate among teens today with some studies stating it affects 30% of obese children. High blood pressure along with obesity increases the risk of stroke and kidney and heart disease. To further compound this problem, high blood pressure is a silent disease, meaning you are unaware of the problem because there are no outwardly physical indications of the issue.
What can we, as responsible adults, do to help alleviate this growing health crisis in America? First and foremost, we need to teach our children responsible eating habits. We need to promote a healthy active lifestyle and allow less couch consuming video games. First and foremost, we need to do this by taking the lead and living out what we preach. I am aware this is not always easy with a full time job, housework, helping our children with homework and just needing time to relax ourselves. There never seem to be enough hours in the day to accomplish everything one would want! Over the past several years, bariatric surgery in the teen population has become more prevalent. While this is not the route we advise for all obese teenagers, there are countless thousands who are severely morbidly obese that would benefit from the procedures. The psychosocial development during the teen years is critical as we grow and being morbidly obese just makes this part of our lives even more difficult. Of the morbidly obese teens, it is estimated that over 80% will become morbidly obese adults. This depicts a bleak picture for obese teenagers. One of the major reasons for the underutilization of the surgery in this population is the hesitation seen in the pediatric segment of health care. To recognize the value of the procedures, especially given their safe nature, would lead to a better informed patient and physician. The decision to have our children proceed with weight loss surgery is not easy and one in which they should be intimately involved. But, given the success of the procedures, the rapid recovery from the operations and the improved emotional and physical health of our children afterwards, it is one we should not forget.