Long Term Health Complications of Childhood Obesity

Childhood obesity is a growing problem in the U.S. – in fact, according to statistics from the American Heart Association, about 1 in 3-kids and teenagers are overweight or obese according to medically accepted guidelines.

This is a not only a problem for kids now – it’s a problem that can follow them into adulthood, manifesting as both physical and mental issues.  While kids can develop previously “adult” diseases like Type 2 Diabetes while still in their childhood years, they can also develop serious health complications down the road if their lifestyle doesn’t change. Here are six long-term obesity complications…

1. High Blood Pressure

Obesity can affect people of all ages, whereas in the past it was considered a health problem that only affected older adults, explains WebMD. High blood pressure in children can lead to long-term health effects such as heart disease, kidney disease, and strokes.

Meanwhile, the same source explains that while it’s relatively easy to detect high blood pressure in adults (doctors simply compare your readings to a chart), it’s not so easy to determine the problem in children. In the case of kids, doctors use charts based on a child’s gender, height and blood pressure readings to determine if there’s an issue, it adds.

2. Dementia

An article from the Express in the U.K. explains says relatively new research has shown that obesity can increase the risk of developing dementia. The research comes from the University of Tel Aviv, and the article explains, “keeping in shape could help combat the dementia epidemic.”

It cites the study of about 500-subjects over 2-decades that shows insulin resistance from obesity can also cause “rapid mental decline,” with learning and problem-solving abilities impacted. The findings conclude there’s a link between Type 2 Diabetes and an increased risk of dementia.

3. Certain Cancers

Cancer.net says that adult obesity is an even bigger problem than childhood obesity, with 2-thirds of adults either considered obese or overweight. These conditions can lead to an increased risk of certain types of cancer, such as breast cancer, kidney cancer, colorectal cancer, prostate cancer and several others, notes the source.

The article explains several studies have focused on the relationship of obesity to cancers. The possible reasons uncovered include increased insulin levels and insulin growth factor-1 (IGF-1); chronic inflammation; and higher estrogen levels from fatty tissue.

4. Lowered Self-Esteem and Confidence

It’s not just physical problems that can stem from childhood obesity, warns the Childhood Obesity Foundation in Vancouver, Canada. Psychological impacts can be noticed during childhood, and overweight children are more likely to be bullied or bully others, which can have lasting health effects of their own.

This can lead to poorer social skills (and social isolation), anxiety, depression, and even learning difficulties related to the childhood obesity, adds the source. These challenges can last into adulthood.

5. Heart Disease

The Cleveland Clinic explains that childhood obesity has doubled in the past 30-years – which in itself is an alarming fact. Another alarming fact: of adolescent children who are overweight or obese, up to 60-percent of them have at least 1-risk factor for cardiovascular disease (which includes heart disease), it adds. “As the prevalence of obesity has increased, the prevalence for cardiovascular problems has too,” says an expert cited in the article.

The source also explains you can’t easily tell if a child is overweight simply by looking at them. There are specific measurements and charts used by doctors to make this determination, it adds. Early screening for obesity is helpful, and may also paint a better picture of your own risk as a parent for developing cardiovascular disease, says the clinic.

6. Osteoarthritis

The World Health Organization (WHO) says that musculoskeletal disorders (mainly osteoarthritis) are one of the biggest health consequences stemming from childhood obesity.

This form of arthritis is different from rheumatoid arthritis, which is an autoimmune condition affecting joints. Osteoarthritis is a “wear and tear” type of arthritis leading to the breaking down of cushioning between joints, notes the Arthritis Foundation. While the foundation says there’s no specific cause for osteoarthritis, it notes excess weight can be a factor. “Many years of carrying extra pounds can cause the cartilage that cushions joints to break down faster,” it adds, also noting “excess of fat tissue” can produce inflammatory chemicals that can damage joints.

Jeff Hayward

Jeff Hayward

Jeff has more than 15 years of experience writing professionally about health, travel and the arts among other subjects. He continuously looks to improve his own overall health through exercise, diet and mindfulness. He is also a proud stay-at-home dad that loves taking photographs both professionally and as a hobby.