Q: Why has obesity reached epidemic proportions?
A: With some 30 percent of American children and adolescents overweight-and half of them obese-obesity is an epidemic that is linked to lifestyle. Children are less active, do not get enough regular exercise and have unhealthy diets.

Q: What health problems are overweight and obese children at risk for?
A: The earlier the body is exposed to such conditions, the greater the potential for organ injury and long-term health problems. Obese children are increasingly developing traditional adult diseases, such as hypertension. Historically children have experienced hypertension as a secondary condition due to kidney problems, but now it's a primary one.

Q: What is hypertension?
A: Also known as high blood pressure, hypertension is an extremely aggressive condition that can lead to secondary organ damage targeting the eyes, heart, brain and kidneys.

Q: What can parents and caregivers do to raise healthier children?
A: Parents and caregivers must teach healthy eating and exercise habits to their children when they are young. Healthy eating can be implemented by planning meals containing whole grains, fruit and vegetables, and eliminating fast food, sugary snacks and drinks. It also is important to control portions and to not use food as a reward, or lack of food as a punishment.

Encourage daily aerobic activity by taking a family walk after dinner, playing sports together, and assigning active household or yard chores. Limiting the amount of time your children spend in front the television or computer also is essential.

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