To Your Health
June, 2021 (Vol. 15, Issue 06)
Even When You're Young...
By Editorial Staff
Weight matters even when you're young, and not just for the common reasons parents and kids think. Yes, weight issues can either be a sign of trauma or cause trauma in and of themselves; or may reflect chronically poor eating habits and lack of exercise.
But an increasingly body of research also suggests childhood weight can set the stage for health problems for a lifetime.
Take heart health, for example. Can being overweight or obese in adolescence increase the risk that you'll suffer a stroke in adulthood? According to study findings published in Stroke, a journal of the American Heart Association, yes. Researchers evaluated adolescent body-mass index (BMI) and first stroke before the age of 50 among 1.9 million men and women tracked beginning at ages 16-20.
Compared to low-normal BMI, above-average BMI (overweight) doubled the stroke risk before age 50; obesity (high BMI) more than tripled the risk. In fact, even having a BMI in the high-normal range increased stroke risk compared to low-normal BMI. Even when accounting for type 2 diabetes, a known risk factor for stroke, overweight / obese adolescents still had a significantly higher stroke risk in adulthood compared to normal-weight (normal-BMI) adolescents.
While the study did not assess weight during adulthood (in other words, whether study participants who were normal weight during adolescence gained weight as adults, or whether overweight / obese adolescents lost weight during adulthood), previous research suggests that children who are overweight often have weight issues throughout their lives.
Which brings us to the moral of the story: Weight matters, even when you're young. If your child has weight issues, a conversation with your doctor may be the first step in gently steering them toward a healthier weight and addressing any issues that may be contributing to the weight.