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Over the last 30 years in the United States, the number of obese children between the ages of 6 and 11 has more than doubled. Childhood obesity is becoming an epidemic that can lead to serious health issues for children and later in life. Research shows that children who are overweight during their formative years are more likely to be obese as adults. Playing a proactive role in your child’s lifestyle choices can help him or her maintain a healthy weight.

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What is Childhood Obesity?

Body mass index, or BMI, is a measure of your child’s body fat based on weight and height. BMI is used by physicians to determine whether a child is underweight, obese, or at risk of becoming obese. In children, BMI is gender and age-specific since body fat changes as they grow, and males and females develop different amounts of body fat during as they mature. If your child’s BMI is between the 85th and 95th growth percentile, he or she is at risk of becoming obese. A BMI above the 95th percentile is considered obese.

What Contributes to Childhood Obesity?

Several factors can contribute to childhood obesity, including:

  • Lack of exercise
  • Overeating
  • Overweight parents
  • Unhealthy food and beverage choices

What are the Health Risks Associated with Childhood Obesity?

If your child becomes obese, he or she may have a much higher risk of developing several conditions, such as:

How Can I Help My Child Stay in a Healthy Weight Range?

Encouraging your children to eat healthy and get at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day is critical. Focusing on good health rather than emphasizing weight or banning certain foods can teach your kids to have a positive outlook when it comes to making healthy choices. Setting an example by choosing nutritious foods, exercising, and maintaining your own weight can also help your children stay at or achieve a healthy weight.

For more information on how you can help your child receive a healthy start in life, visit the UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh website or call 412-692-5325. For additional information to help manage your child’s weight, please visit the Endocrine Wellness page.

About Pediatrics

From nutrition to illnesses, from athletics to school, children will face many challenges growing up. Parents often will make important health care decisions for them. We hope to help guide both of you in that journey. UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh is a national leader in pediatric care, ranking consistently on U.S. News & World Report’s Best Children’s Hospitals Honor Roll. We provide expert treatment for pediatric diseases, along well-child visits, urgent care, and more. With locations across Pennsylvania, Maryland, and West Virginia, you can find world-class care close to home. We also work closely with UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital, a national leader in care for newborns and their mothers. Our goal is to provide the best care for your children, from birth to adulthood and beyond. Visit our website to find a doctor near you.