With obesity among children and adolescents in the U.S. nearly tripling since the 1970s, many of those affected are dealing with health problems that previously weren't seen until adulthood. These include: High blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and elevated blood cholesterol levels.

There are psychological effects as well. Obese children are more prone to low self-esteem, negative body image and depression. Excess weight at young ages has been linked to higher and earlier death rates in adulthood. 

September is Awareness for Childhood Obesity Month, according to the American Heart Association (AHA), which is using the event to promote healthy habits that can help with weight management.

Although genetic factors can contribute to childhood obesity, physical activity, nutritional food choices and even sufficient sleep can help children achieve and maintain a healthy weight.

The AHA has 5 Tips for dealing with picky eaters.

The organization also has physical activity recommendations for kids:

  • Children 3-5 years old should be physically active and have plenty of opportunities to move throughout the day.
  • Kids 6-17 years old should get at least 60 minutes per day of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity, mostly aerobic.
  • Include vigorous-intensity activity on at least 3 days per week.
  • Include muscle- and bone-strengthening (weight-bearing) activities on at least 3 days per week.
  • Increase amount and intensity gradually over time.

The CDC suggests that schools adopt policies and practices that help young people eat more fruits and vegetables, eat fewer foods and beverages that are high in added sugars or solid fats, and increase daily minutes of physical activity. The agency notes that these kinds of school-based and after-school programs and policies can be cost-effective and even cost-saving.

For more information about childhood obesity, visit Child & Teen Healthy Weight and Obesity.