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NC Kids at Risk for Health Problems

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Physical education classes should not be the only exercise young people get.
CHAPEL HILL — A frightening new study shows more than a quarter of North Carolina fourthand fifth graders are overweight, and many have high blood pressure andcholesterol. It's a real problem, but doctors say the solution is simple.

The University of North Carolina School of Nursing evaluated more than2,000 children in this state. The results show that the kids are at riskfor some serious health problems. The study also reinforces theimportance of healthy food and exercise.

Physical activity is an important part of a child's life, whether it'splaying sports or just running around on the playground. But a new UNC study found a surprising number of North Carolina fourth and fifth gradershave health problems.

The study shows 12% of the students have high blood pressure. Three percent had severe hypertension. Those levels are 99% higher than otherkids in the United States their age.

The study also shows that 12% of NC fourth and fifth graders have highcholesterol. Dr. Joanne Harrel, who was one of the researchers, says oneof the solutions is more exercise for children.

"We are really encouraging the schools and parents to try to build truephysical activity," Harrel says, "not just P.E., but really physically active programs in the schools."

That's only part of the solution. The other part is to make children makehealthier food choices. That begins as a parent.

Nutritionist Lynn Hoggard says parents should bring more healthy foodsinto their homes, foods like fresh vegetables, low fat snacks, whole grainbreads, and cereal.

"Those are also the kinds of foods that you want your children to seeyou eating," Hoggard suggests. "Believe it or not, children watch whatparents do, especially where food is concerned."

The researchers say the results suggest North Carolina children shouldbe routinely checked for high blood pressure and cholesterol.

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