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Local teens exceed state and national averages for obesity

Zoe Greszler • Updated Feb 2, 2018 at 10:31 PM

This is American Heart Month, giving many a good reason to jump start a healthier lifestyle. 

Almost 13 million (17 percent) of U.S. children ages 2 to 19 are obese, according to the American Heart Association. Ohio ranked about the same percentage, with about 14 percent of teens being obese, and 16 percent were overweight in 2016.

In Huron County, the data reveals the problem is considerably worse.

According to last year’s county health assessment, 20 percent of Huron County youth were obese, measuring Body Mass Index (BMI) by age. Another 15 percent were classified as overweight. 

It’s long been known that being obese puts you at a higher risk for health problems such as heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes and more, and recent studies have confirmed these facts are no different for younger patients. But researchers say weight loss surgery can reverse heart health risks in teens struggling with obesity.

Childhood obesity has both immediate and long-term effects on health and well-being, according to the health assessment. Immediate health effects include increased risk of diseases we might normally categorize as an adult’s disease.

“Obese youth are more likely to have risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure. In a population-based sample of 5- to 17-year-olds, 70 percent of obese youth had at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease,” the report said. 

“Obese adolescents are more likely to have prediabetes, a condition in which blood glucose levels indicate a high risk for development of diabetes. Children and adolescents who are obese are at greater risk for bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, and social and psychological problems such as stigmatization and poor self-esteem.”

Long term effects include higher likelihoods of adult health problems such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, several types of cancer and osteoarthritis. The assessment reported one study showed obese children as young as 2 years old were more likely to be obese as adults.

“Overweight and obesity are associated with increased risk for many types of cancer, including cancer of the breast, colon, endometrium, esophagus, kidney, pancreas, gall bladder, thyroid, ovary, cervix, and prostate, as well as multiple myeloma and Hodgkin’s lymphoma,” the report said.

In combating weight, lifestyle changes, such as keeping to a proper and strict diet and exercising regularly as key factors. And with the average Huron County youth spending about three hours socializing on an electronic, more than two hours texting, an hour and a half watching TV and an hour playing video games everyday, limiting screen time is something to consider.

For those teens who still struggle despite trying their best to live a healthy lifestyle, some are turning to another option.

Over the past decade bariatric surgery has continued to gain acceptance as a safe and effective treatment strategy for teens struggling with severe obesity.

According to Nationwide Children’s Hospital, a new report from the Teen-Longitudinal Assessment of Bariatric Surgery (Teen-LABS) study, found that having bariatric surgery during adolescence results in drastic reductions of risk factors that are widely known to be associated with the development of heart disease later in life. The number of patients with multiple risk factors reduced by 85 percent three years post surgery.

Almost all of the 242 patients studied had high blood pressure, abnormal glucose levels, increased inflammation or high cholesterol before surgery, but three years after surgery, less than half of them had any of these risk factors.

For those trying to help a teen decide the best course for their health, whether it’s a lifestyle change or a consideration of bariatric surgery, Fisher-Titus Medical Center staff recommend loved ones and friends speak with the teen and follow a few tips in doing so.

The recent health article said don’t shame them, don’t preach, focus on their health, show you care and get educated yourself, then refer them to consider seeking medical assistance.

Helping the teen could save their heart, and their life.

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