About 1 in 5 (19%) children in the United States has obesity. Certain groups of children are more affected than others. National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month provides a chance for all of us to learn more about this serious health condition. While there is no simple solution, there are many ways communities can support children with their journey to good health.

Children with obesity are at higher risk for having other chronic health conditions and diseases, such as asthma, sleep apnea, bone and joint problems, and type 2 diabetes. They also have more risk factors for heart disease like high blood pressure and high cholesterol than their normal weight peers. Children with obesity are more likely to have obesity as adults. This can lead to lifelong physical and mental health problems. Adult obesity is associated with a higher risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and many types of cancers.

For some children and families, obesity may be caused by too much time spent being inactive, lack of sleep, little to no opportunities for physical fitness in the community, eating too many high calorie foods and sugary beverages due to ease of access or financial reasons.

To prevent childhood obesity, parents can chart their child's growth. Learn how obesity is measured in children, and use CDC's Child and Teen BMI Calculator to screen your child for potential weight issues.

Provide nutritious, lower-calorie foods such as fruits and vegetables in place of foods high in added sugars and solid fats. Try serving more fruit and vegetables at meals and as snacks. Ensure that drinking water is always available as a no-calorie alternative to sugary drinks and limit juice intake.

Help children get the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity each day. Regular physical activity can have immediate health benefits like better sleep, better academic achievement, and reduced feelings of anxiety and stress.

Make sure your child has healthy sleep habits. Sleep helps improve attention and reduces the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, and even obesity later in life. Get your child to bed at the same time each day, including the weekends; remove electronic devices from the bedroom; and keep their bedroom dark and cool. Your child needs at least 8 hours of sleep, may be more depending on age.

Be a role model! Eat healthy meals and snacks, and get the right amount of physical activity every day.

It is important to point out that Kentucky is one of the unhealthiest states in our nation; but, a few healthy lifestyle choices could change this. First, eating normally proportioned helpings of nutritious foods including at least five fruits and vegetables a day can lower weight and reduce heart disease and diabetes. Second, exercising about 30 minutes per day can lower blood pressure. Third, avoiding the use of tobacco products can reduce several types of cancer. Finally, making sure you get your needed preventive screenings can detect diseases early and greatly increase your chances for a positive health outcomes, while receiving your recommended vaccinations can prevent acquiring disease in the first place. Visit our website at www.LCDHD.org and click the "52 Weeks to Health" banner to learn more about each of these areas.

Source: https://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpao/features/childhood-obesity/index.html.

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