If you’re like me, you probably worry about your kids health. Whether it’s a cold, a fever or food allergies, keeping them healthy is always top of mind. Although minor health problems will always be a concern, it’s the chronic health conditions I think about a lot—and I think you should too.
In the U.S. we’re facing sky-high rates of chronic health conditions like obesity, heart disease and stroke, and depression and anxiety.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2012, approximately 50 percent of adults had one or more chronic health condition and 1 in 4 had two or more chronic health conditions.
What may surprise you is that kids are not immune either. According to a February 2010 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, between 13 and 27 percent of children have chronic health conditions. Experts predict not only will kids be less healthy than older generations, but they’ll live shorter lives too.
What I think we get wrong in the U.S. is that we treat these conditions in adulthood and often times, it’s too late. Doctors prescribe pills and chalk up health problems to age. For those who are lucky, their doctors might talk about diet, getting exercise and losing weight but because of a lack of nutrition knowledge coupled with short appointments, what they offer isn’t much.
If we placed more of an emphasis on teaching our kids how to eat healthy, have healthy eating habits and move everyday, so many of these chronic health conditions and diseases could be avoided.
If we don’t do something about it now—à la eat healthy ourselves, feed our kids healthy foods and teach them healthy eating habits—these are some of the chronic health conditions our kids can look forward to.
According to 2015 poll by U.S. News and World Report, childhood obesity is the number one kids health condition parents worry about. The CDC estimates one in 6 kids and teens are obese, which can lead to health conditions like high blood pressure and type-2 diabetes—conditions not previously seen in kids.
Without education or effective interventions, most of these kids will grow up to be obese adults and have an increased risk of heart disease and stroke, autoimmune diseases, joint problems, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), osteoarthritis, fatty liver disease, kidney disease and certain types of cancer.
2. Type-2 Diabetes
Although diabetes can be genetic and it’s unclear the precise factors that causes it, diet and lifestyle have a lot to do with it. A diet high in calories, refined grains and sugar and low in fruits, vegetables and whole grains can increase your risk, as well as being overweight.
Rates of anxiety and depression in the U.S. are on the rise. According to the National Institutes of Health, in 2016, approximately 16.2 million people had at least one depressive episode. Plus, an April 2018 study in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics found more than 1 in 20 children in the U.S. have anxiety or depression.
As someone who has suffered with anxiety and depression for most of my life, I recognize that these conditions can be genetic, biological, a result of illness, trauma, stress, death or loss but studies show diet also plays a role. According to a December 2017 study in the journal BMJ Public Health a healthy diet is positively linked to better physiological well-being, less emotional problems, better relationships with other kids and higher self-esteem.
4. Obstructive Sleep Apnea
According to the National Sleep Foundation, more than 18 million adults and between 1 and 10 percent of children in the U.S. have obstructive sleep apnea. Left untreated, sleep apnea can lead to insomnia, behavioral problems, hyperactivity, irritability, high blood pressure, depression and daytime sleepiness.
Although sleep apnea can be caused by many factors, one of the main causes is excessive weight and obesity.
5. Autoimmune Diseases
Approximately 50 million people in the U.S. have an autoimmune disease, like rheumatoid arthritis (RA), lupus and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. According to Dr. Mark Hyman, the root causes of the inflammation behind autoimmunity include stress, hidden infections, food allergies or sensitivities, toxins, genetic predisposition, nutritional deficiencies, and leaky gut—some of which are a direct result of diet.
You might think the foods your kids eat and their eating habits won’t have much of an effect on them, now or later. Maybe your kids will be one of the lucky ones but that’s not a risk I’m willing to take.