morbid obesity

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Information about Morbid Obesity

What is Morbid Obesity?

Obesity is a disease that affects nearly one-third of the adult American population (approximately 60 million). The number of overweight and obese Americans has continued to increase since 1960, a trend that is not slowing down. Today, 64.5 percent of adult Americans (about 127 million) are categorized as being overweight or obese. Each year, obesity causes at least 300,000 excess deaths in the U.S., and healthcare costs of American adults with obesity amount to approximately $100 billion.

Causes of Morbid Obesity

Obesity results from consuming more calories than the body uses. Genetic and environmental factors influence body weight, but precisely how they interact to determine a person's weight is still unclear. One proposed explanation is that body weight is regulated around a set point, similar to a thermostat setting. A higher-than-normal set point may explain why some people are obese and why losing weight and maintaining weight loss are difficult for them.

  • Genetic Factors: Recent research suggests that on the average, the genetic influence contributes to about 33 percent of body weight, but the contribution may be more or less in a particular person.
  • Socioeconomic Factors: Such factors strongly influence obesity, especially among women. In the United States, obesity is more than twice as common among women in lower socioeconomic groups as among women in higher ones. Why socioeconomic factors have such a strong influence on women's weight is not fully understood, but sanctions against obesity do increase with increasing social status. Women in higher socioeconomic groups have more time and resources for the dieting and exercise that enable them to conform to these social demands.
  • Psychological Factors: Emotional disturbances, once considered an important cause of obesity, are now considered a reaction to the strong prejudice and discrimination against obese people. One type of emotional disturbance, a negative body image, is a serious problem for many young obese women. It leads to extreme self-consciousness and discomfort in social situations.
Obesity is the second leading cause of unnecessary deaths.
  • Despite its toll taken in death and disability, obesity does not receive the attention it deserves from government, the health care profession or the insurance industry.
  • Research is severely limited by a shortage of funds.
  • Inadequate insurance coverage limits access to treatment.
  • Discrimination and mistreatment of persons with obesity is widespread and often considered socially acceptable.
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Obesity and Children

Today's youth are considered the most inactive generation in history caused in part by reductions in school physical education programs and unavailable or unsafe community recreational facilities.

Many adverse health effects associated with overweight are observed in children and adolescents. Being overweight during childhood and particularly adolescence is related to increased morbidity and mortality in later life.

The percentage of children and adolescents who are overweight and obese is now higher than ever before. Poor dietary habits and inactivity are reported to contribute to the increase of obesity in youth.

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Causes of Morbid Obesity in Children

There are many factors that contribute to causing child and adolescent obesity - some are modifiable and others are not.

Modifiable causes include:
  • Physical Activity - Lack of regular exercise.
  • Sedentary behavior - High frequency of television viewing, computer usage, and similar behavior that takes up time that can be used for physical activity.
  • Socioeconomic Status - Low family incomes and non-working parents.
  • Eating Habits - Over-consumption of high-calorie foods. Some eating patterns that have been associated with this behavior are eating when not hungry, eating while watching TV or doing homework.
  • Environment - Some factors are over-exposure to advertising of foods that promote high-calorie foods and lack of recreational facilities.
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Prevention of Morbid Obesity in Children

Teaching healthy behaviors at a young age is important since change becomes more difficult with age. Behaviors involving physical activity and nutrition are the cornerstone of preventing obesity in children and adolescents. Families and schools are the two most critical links in providing the foundation for those behaviors.

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Families coping with Morbid Obesity in Children

Parents are the most important role models for children. Results from an American Obesity Association survey show that:

  • The majority of parents in the U.S. (78 percent) believe that physical education or recess should not be reduced or replaced with academic classes.
  • Almost 30 percent of parents said that they are "somewhat" or "very" concerned about their children's weight.
  • 12 percent of parents considered their child overweight.
  • Comparing their own childhood health habits to their children's, 27 percent of parents said their children eat less nutritiously, and 24 percent said their children are less physically active.
  • 35 percent of parents rated their children's school programs for teaching good patterns of eating and physical activity to prevent obesity as "poor," "non-existent," or "don't know."
  • Among six choices of what they believed to be the greatest risk to their children's long-term health and quality of life, 5.6 percent of parents chose "being overweight or obese." More parents selected other choices as the greatest risk: alcohol (6.1 percent), sexually transmitted disease (10 percent), smoking (13.3 percent), violence (20.3 percent), and illegal drugs (24 percent).
  • In terms of their own behavior, 61 percent of parents said that it would be either "not very difficult" or "not at all difficult" to change their eating and/or physical activity patterns if it would help prevent obesity in any of their children.
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Create an Active Environment:

  • Make time for the entire family to participate in regular physical activities that everyone enjoys. Try walking, bicycling or rollerblading.
  • Plan special active family-outings such as a hiking or ski trip.
  • Start an active neighborhood program. Join together with other families for group activities like touch-football, basketball, tag or hide-and-seek.
  • Assign active chores to every family member such as vacuuming, washing the car or mowing the lawn. Rotate the schedule of chores to avoid boredom from routine.
  • Enroll your child in a structured activity that he or she enjoys, such as tennis, gymnastics, martial arts, etc.
  • Instill an interest in your child to try a new sport by joining a team at school or in your community.
  • Limit the amount of TV watching.
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Create a Healthy Eating Environment:

  • Implement the same healthy diet (rich in fruits, vegetables and grains) for your entire family, not just for select individuals.
  • Plan times when you prepare foods together. Children enjoy participating and can learn about healthy cooking and food preparation.
  • Eat meals together at the dinner table at regular times.
  • Avoid rushing to finish meals. Eating too quickly does not allow enough time to digest and to feel a sense of fullness.
  • Avoid other activities during mealtimes such as watching TV.
  • Avoid foods that are high in calories, fat or sugar.
  • Have snack foods available that are low-calorie and nutritious. Fruit, vegetables and yogurt are some examples.
  • Avoid serving portions that are too large.
  • Avoid forcing your child to eat if he/she is not hungry. If your child shows atypical signs of not eating, consult a healthcare professional.
  • Limit the frequency of fast-food eating to no more than once per week.
  • Avoid using food as a reward or the lack of food as punishment.
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Health Risks, Diagnosis and Treatment

Determining if a child or adolescent has a weight problem can be challenging. How do you know if the excess weight your child has is part of the natural growth process, and will your child just "grow out of?" How do you know if your child's weight may be negatively affecting his or her health?

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Health Risks of Morbid Obesity

Along with the rise in childhood obesity, there has been an increase in the incidence and prevalence of medical conditions in children and adolescents that had been rare in the past. Pediatricians and childhood obesity researchers are reporting more frequent cases of obesity-related diseases such as type 2 diabetes, asthma and hypertension that once were considered adult conditions.

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