Patient information: My Child is Overweight

2) My Child is Overweight

How do I know if my child is overweight? — Your child’s doctor or nurse will tell you. He or she will measure your child’s height and weight and use those measurements to calculate a number called the “body mass index” or “BMI.”

The doctor or nurse will use your child’s BMI to tell if your child’s weight is healthy for his or her height. To do this, the doctor or nurse will compare your child’s BMI to the BMIs of other children of the same age and sex. If your child’s BMI is high compared to other children, he or she is overweight. When a child’s BMI is much too high, doctors sometimes use the terms “obese” or “obesity.”

Why is it important for my child to have a healthy weight? — It’s important to have a healthy weight, because children who are very overweight can have:

It’s also important that your child have a healthy weight so that he or she will have a healthy weight as an adult. Being overweight as an adult can lead to medical problems such as high blood pressure, diabetes (high blood sugar), heart attacks, and some types of cancer.

What causes children to be overweight? — Children can be overweight for different reasons. Some children simply gain weight more easily than other children. These children can become overweight by eating too much, eating unhealthy foods, or not getting enough exercise. When children gain weight very easily, they have to work extra hard to get to and stay at a healthy weight.

Although uncommon, some medicines and medical conditions can also make children gain weight more easily.

Will my child need tests if he or she is overweight? — Maybe. The doctor or nurse will talk with you and your child, and do an exam. He or she might do blood tests to check for:

How can I help my child get to a healthy weight? — To help your child get to a healthy weight, you need to help him or her eat healthy foods and be more active. Making these lifestyle changes can be hard, especially at first.

To help you and your child start making lifestyle changes, think of the numbers 5-2-1-0. Each of these numbers stands for a goal you can try to reach every day to help your child be healthier.

You and your child might not be able to meet all of these goals at first, but that’s OK. Choose 1 or 2 goals to try first. Later on, you can try to meet all of these goals.

Is there anything else I can do to help my child? — Yes. You can:

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