Local News

NC Kids at Risk for Health Problems

Posted September 17, 1997 12:00 a.m. EDT

— A frightening new study shows more than a quarter of North Carolina fourth and fifth graders are overweight, and many have high blood pressure and cholesterol. It's a real problem, but doctors say the solution is simple.

The University of North Carolina School of Nursing evaluated more than 2,000 children in this state. The results show that the kids are at risk for some serious health problems. The study also reinforces the importance of healthy food and exercise.

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

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

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

"We are really encouraging the schools and parents to try to build true physical 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 make healthier food choices. That begins as a parent.

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

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

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