Mississippi ranks among the highest in the nation for obesity rates among children, teens, and adults. Over 20% of youth in our state, ages 10-17, are considered obese by the World Health Organization standards. Childhood obesity is a complex issue with many contributing factors including poor diet, lack of exercise, unhealthy sleep patterns, and even genetics. It’s important to understand the root cause of the problem to accurately treat the condition, but everyone can benefit from healthy diets, exercise, and beneficial sleep routines. As parents, the best thing you can do to combat this growing problem is to set a good example for lifelong healthy habits at home.

The World Health Organization standard uses the body mass index, or BMI, to determine obesity. This scale uses height and weight measurements to determine which category the patient falls under, ranging from severely underweight to severely obese. Determining obesity in children can be a little more difficult because of widely varying growth rates and age differences, so it is important to consult with your doctor for an accurate diagnosis. Children who fall into the obese category are more likely to suffer from breathing conditions like asthma or sleep apnea, diabetes, joint problems, and heart disease. The risk for stroke, heart attack, cancer, and hypertension significantly increases as they become adults.

There are things you can do at home to promote a healthier lifestyle for yourself and your children. Healthy eating habits provide their growing bodies with proper nutrition. A good place to start is replacing sugary drinks with water for hydration, opting for leaner cuts of meat, incorporating more vegetables, cooking with whole grains, and substituting sugary snacks with fruit. You should also try to include physical activities in your everyday routine like a walk around the block, a bike ride, a playful game of tag, and even physically demanding chores to increase activity levels, which can improve cardiovascular health. By incorporating exercise and healthier food options, a better sleep routine can be easier to achieve. You can also reduce or eliminate screen time before bed to prepare them for a full night’s rest.

At Roger’s Family Pharmacy, we know that prevention is key to maintaining overall health and wellness. It’s important that you talk with your primary care physician about steps you can take as a parent to curb excess sugar intake and promote healthy habits with your children. It is easier to start early with young children, but there are things you can do to help your older ones become healthier and more active. Visit the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention website at www.cdc.gov to learn more, or you may also consult your local pharmacist at Roger’s Family Pharmacy at (601) 582-8351 for additional information.