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Fight childhood obesity; and tame the rage-a-holic

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Updated: April 2, 2014 2:08AM



Q: I’m a first-grade teacher, and many of my kids are overweight. Their families don’t seem to understand the problems this causes, from poor school performance to chronic illness. How can I help these kids?

— Maggie C., Dallas

A: You’ve hit the nail on the head — twice. First, even though the obesity rate for kids ages 2 to 5 has dropped from 14 percent to 8 percent, too many youngsters are still overweight.

Programs like Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move have helped, but far-reaching change requires the cooperation of parents. And that brings us to the second issue you mentioned: How families deal with their overweight kids.

Fifty percent of parents don’t realize when their kids are overweight or obese. This oblivion may be caused by the parents’ own weight problems (if one parent is obese, there’s a 50-50 chance the kids will be obese; both parents ups the chances to 80 percent). Or it may be because they think their child’s weight problem is a passing phase. It’s not!

Sixty-three percent of obese school-age kids become obese adults. Some parents may even worry that addressing weight issues will trigger bulimia or anorexia nervosa, but advocating physical activity and healthy food doesn’t cause eating disorders.

So what can you do about this? A lot!

At school, lobby for teaching nutrition to all grades, eliminating unhealthy foods in school lunches and vending machines, and giving kids recess and physical education classes.

And get parents involved: Assign homework that gets parents and kids to walk around the neighborhood looking for specific kinds of plants, rocks or birds. Provide checklists and encourage families to take pictures of the activities for a show-and-tell exhibit.

Eradicating childhood obesity takes all of us making small steps that add up to big progress for all children (and our health care budgets!).

Q: Lately my husband is angry about everything. I tell him it’s not good for him, but he won’t, or can’t, dial it down. Any suggestions?

— Susan D., Charlotte, N.C.

A: “People who fly into a rage always make a bad landing,” cautioned Will Rogers.

And was he right! Repeated, quick-to-anger outbursts trigger the release of stress hormones epinephrine and cortisol, which make your heart beat faster, raise blood pressure, pump up your blood sugar level and tamp down your immune, digestive and reproductive systems.

And a new study shows that for two hours after an angry outburst, you’re almost five times more likely to have chest pains, shortness of breath and, yup, a heart attack. You’re also around four times more likely to have a stroke. The chances of an irregular heartbeat or brain aneurysm also shoot up.

So when your husband repeatedly blows his stack, say, as he’s driving to work (“Learn to drive, you moron!”), he’s risking serious health problems, especially if he has high LDL cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, smokes, eats red meat more than once a week or has other risk factors for heart disease.

Pass along these tips to help him cool down and dial back his anger.

Ask him to acknowledge that he gets enraged a lot, and admit that it’s not pleasant for him either.

Suggest he count to 10 before he says anything angry. For example, the car in front of him stops short and he has to slam on the brakes ... seven, eight, nine ... he’ll be surprised how that first flash of rage dissipates and he feels calmer and more in control.

Ask him to outlaw overblown words, and no cursing. Words such as “never” and “always” fuel extreme feelings. In place of swearing, make up humorous substitutes. Have him try saying, “I’ll be a ton of a birch tree,” and “I can’t believe that fracking gas well cut me off!”

Share 10 minutes of mindful meditation every morning and evening. It’s proven to reduce overall stress (you’re feeling some, too), and it will help protect both of your hearts.

Email your health and wellness questions to Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen at youdocsdaily@sharecare.com.



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