July 2 2004

Ask Your Doctor About BMI

By Deborah Gould, MD

BMI can save your child’s life. But do you know what BMI is? Do you know your child’s BMI?

BMI stands for Body Mass Index, a quick measurement to determine if an individual is overweight by assessing the relationship between weight and height. It may be the most important measurement you can ask your pediatrician to do. Why? Because obesity is now recognized to be one of the top 10 health issues for children in the United States – 15% of all American children between the ages of 6-19 are now considered overweight or obese.

Consider this: an obese teenager has almost an 80% chance that he/she will stay obese as a grown-up. Why does this matter? It matters because we know that being overweight is linked to diabetes, high blood pressure, fatty liver, joint problems, and sleep apnea – all chronic conditions that can seriously decrease the quality of life. Perhaps most painful of all for a youngster is the deep psychological pain and the self-esteem issues that are created by being “fat.”

BMI is often a family issue. Not long ago I saw an overweight 11-year-old boy in my office whose father is very obese. Sadly, the boy said the only time he feels good is when he’s eating. I finally got the family to talk about food as their great common comfort. What they weren’t talking about was the boy’s self-esteem.

Another family with two overweight children have meals at fast food restaurants at least twice a week, eat lots of chips, and drink lots of soda. The mother was shocked to learn that one can of soda contains 12 teaspoonfuls of sugar! She would never let her children simply eat 12 teaspoonfuls of sugar. After a good talk about food and nutrition, mom is cooking more meals at home, including vegetables and fruit. When I last visited with them even mom had lost weight.

What can you do?

• Recognize that there may a problem. Talk about it.

• Ask your pediatrician about BMI.

• Turn on the radio or stereo instead of the TV when you get home.

• Limit TV overall to 2 hours a day, max.

• Make healthy habits a family effort.

• Drink water instead of soda.

• Use low-fat or non-fat milk.

• Eat more vegetables and fruit.

• Eat only when you feel hungry, and eat slowly.

Choosing a healthier lifestyle is a decision anyone can make. I see my patients and their families taking positive steps toward healthier lives with every visit.

I encourage you to check Kaiser Permanente’s website for more information on obesity at www.kaiserpermanente.org. But to take the first step toward building a healthy life for you and your children – talk to your doctor.

Email Dr. Gould at: doctors-word@kp.org

Dr. Deborah Gould is Chief of Pediatrics at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Oakland California

This advertorial is the first of a monthly column for NCM’s ethnic media partners written by Kaiser Perman-ente physicians based on their experiences. Sponsored by Kaiser Permanente and produced by NCM InfoWire.

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