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Reducing the Risk of Obesity in Children

Henry Ford Health System Dr. Ken Strzelecki offers practical advice to help parents instill healthy habits in their kids

Overweight children very often become overweight adults. Childhood obesity sets up kids for heart disease risk factors like high blood pressure, abnormal blood sugar, abnormal cholesterol and a waist size over 40 inches. Formerly, those conditions were rarely seen in children. But in a recent study, about two-thirds of obese high school students already had at least one risk factor present.

"I have spent a lot of my training and early time in practice watching childhood obesity and nutrition-related topics become an increasingly important part of practicing pediatric medicine," said Ken Strzelecki, D.O. of Henry Ford Macomb Hospital–Warren.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the childhood obesity rate has more than tripled over the last 30 years. Today, about 16 percent of children and teens are considered overweight. This number is significant, as 70 to 80 percent of overweight children become obese adults.

"We are clearly seeing a rise in the number of overweight children," Strzelecki said. "But we are also seeing an increase in community awareness of issues related to nutrition, activity and weight-related medical issues."Ken Strzelecki, D.O. of Henry Ford Macomb Hospital–Warren

Involving the whole family is vital in the battle against childhood obesity.

"My first steps in any weight-counseling visit involve getting both the parents and the patient to identify why they have concerns and what their goals are. Ultimately, my goal is to get parents to understand the various issues involved in weight management and then identify how to best meet the needs of the patient while addressing the concerns of the parent," Strzelecki said.

Making smart food choices that add nutritional value to children's diets and exercising an average of 60 minutes a day most days of the week can go a long way to helping kids achieve a healthy weight.

"Parents should focus on the family living a healthy lifestyle that includes regular meals throughout the day, a well-balanced diet, a variety of healthy foods, regular activity, a positive self-image and recognition that making simple changes and daily healthy choices can have a lasting impact," Strzelecki said.

The good news is that there's no better time than today to start to make a difference in a child's life. However, parents and caregivers should have realistic goals and avoid "fad" diets for weight loss.

"I encourage them to avoid crash diets and unrealistic expectations of rapid short term weight loss, because evidence has shown that those plans don't have the same lasting effects as a balanced, healthy lifestyle," Strzelecki said.

Strzelecki points out that Henry Ford Health System offers a "Let's Get Healthy" program for families. "This is a great starting point for many of our families because it provides regular support over a two-and-a-half-month period, with weekly sessions for both parents and children," he said. Families hear from nutritionists, counselors, physicians and other support staff, and have the chance to share successes and ask questions.

"Every parent has the potential to set an example of a healthy lifestyle," said Dr. Strzelecki. "I am proud of the families that recognize this important part of growing up in today's society."

To make an appointment with Dr. Ken Strzelecki or another Henry Ford doctor, call 1-800-HENRYFORD. Visit the Let's Get Healthy program website to learn more about it, or call 313-874-6653.

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