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CHILDHOOD OBESITY: Childhood obesity is a serious medical condition that affects children and adolescents. Children who are obese are above the normal weight for their age and height. Childhood obesity is particularly troubling because the extra pounds often start children on the path to health problems that were once considered adult problems — diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Many obese children become obese adults, especially if one or both parents are obese. Childhood obesity can also lead to poor self-esteem and depression. One of the best strategies to reduce childhood obesity is to improve the eating and exercise habits of your entire family. Treating and preventing childhood obesity helps protect your child's health now and in the future. Risk factors: Many factors — usually working in combination — increase your child's risk of becoming overweight: Diet. Regularly eating high-calorie foods, such as fast foods, baked goods and vending machine snacks, can easily cause your child to gain weight. Candy and desserts also can cause weight gain, and more and more evidence points to sugary drinks, including fruit juices, as culprits in obesity in some people. Lack of exercise. Children who don't exercise much are more likely to gain weight because they don't burn as many calories. Too much time spent in sedentary activities, such as watching television or playing video games, also contributes to the problem. Family factors. If your child comes from a family of overweight people, he or she may be more likely to put on weight. This is especially true in an environment where high-calorie foods are always available and physical activity isn't encouraged. Psychological factors. Personal, parental and family stress can increase a child's risk of obesity. Some children overeat to cope with problems or to deal with emotions, such as stress, or to fight boredom. Their parents may have similar tendencies. Socioeconomic factors. People in some communities have limited resources and limited access to supermarkets. As a result, they may opt for convenience foods that don't spoil quickly, such as frozen meals, crackers and cookies. In addition, people who live in lower income neighborhoods might not have access to a safe place to exercise.
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