Oklahoma’s children might live shorter lives than their parents if obesity trends continue, state health officials say. 

click to enlarge Four preschool kids playing with the ball - BIGSTOCK
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The problems weighing on the state’s youth is costly to both pocketbooks and quality of life, said Candace Macedo, obesity prevention coordinator for the Oklahoma State Department of Health’s (OSDH) Center for the Advancement of Wellness.

“The heartbreaking reality is that if it continues, it is estimated that our children may have shorter life expectancy than us,” she said. “We may see complications and disabilities associated with diabetes and heart disease much earlier, which will impact our workforce, military service and profoundly change the health trajectory of our children’s children.”

A child is diagnosed as obese when recommended growth and weight is in the 95th percentile or greater than normal guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, and Shape Your Future, a statewide health initiative funded by the Oklahoma Tobacco Endowment Trust (TSET) and OSDH, provides tips and resources to help.

Obesity stats

Childhood obesity has increased nationwide by 14.9 percent since 2007, according to 2012 data from the National Survey of Children’s Health.

In Oklahoma, 27.1 percent of youth ages 14-18 are obese or overweight, and 33.9 percent of children ages 10-17 are obese or overweight, said Joyce Samuel, OSDH surveillance and evaluation coordinator.

According to studies that tracked Oklahoma high school student trends, the number of students who played video games or used a computer at least three hours per day increased 125 percent from 2007 to 2013. In 2013, 62.4 percent of students did not attend physical education classes at least once per week. About 67 percent of students skipped breakfast daily during that time and about 52 percent said they were trying to lose weight.

“We know that the physical activity and nutrition patterns established during childhood and adolescence can greatly impact adult and lifestyle choices,” Macedo said. “Children who are overweight or obese are at a greater risk of being obese as adults.”

Obesity increases the risk of chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, stroke, cancers and osteoarthritis, she said. Nationwide, Oklahoma ranks No. 48 in cardiovascular deaths, No. 45 in heart attacks, No. 44 in heart disease and No. 44 in high cholesterol.

The state ranks No. 39 nationally in diabetes cases, No. 37 in incidents of stroke, No. 42 in high blood pressure and No. 45 in cancer deaths.

“It concerns us to see young people experiencing health issues that used to be reserved for later adulthood,” Macedo said.

Healthy tips

Encouraging families to eat and play together is Shape Your Future’s goal in September, said TSET Executive Director Tracey Strader.

“Simple steps like filling half your plate with fruits and veggies at every meal and getting 60 minutes of physical activity each day can help kids develop health habits that follow them for a lifetime,” Strader said.

Other tips include: cooking together and letting children help in the kitchen; bringing children to the supermarket to empower them to try new foods; enrolling children in afterschool activities such as sports or dance; adding music, dance and games to household chores.

Visit shapeyourfutureok.com for more information.

Print headline: Heavy news, Oklahoma’s children might live shorter lives than their parents if obesity trends continue, state health officials say.

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