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Kids At Risk: The Price of Inactivity.

A sedentary lifestype puts children at risk for a slew of deadly illnesses, either in adulthood or, more ominously, in childhood. Conditions like high blood presure and adult-onset diabetes are appearing in ever-younger patients. Health risks of inactivity include:

1. Obesity This is now the most prevalent nutritional disease of U.S. children and adolescents, affecting between 11 and 25 percent of youngsters. Being overweight is a major risk factor for a host of chronic adulthood diseases, including hypertension, heart disease, and cancer.

2. Cardiovascular Diseases In 1992, coronary heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases killed more than 860,000 Americans, making these illnesses the leading cause of death. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an inactive lifestyle almost double the risk for coronary heart disease. Hypertension is a major contributing factor in heart problems; some 2.8 million children ages 6 to 17 have been diagnosed with high blood pressure.

3. Cancer The second leading cause of death in the United States, cancer causes 25 percent of all deaths, according to the American Cancer Society. Lack of physical activity is associated with an increased risk of colon cancer. Studies have shown that physical activity in adolescence and young adulthood may reduce a woman's risk of developing breast cancer.

4. Diabetes This disease accounts for almost 14 million hospital days; in 1997 diabetes cost Americans an estimated $98 billion in medical expenses and is a major risk factor for blindness, kidney failure and vascular diseases. Studies have found that physical activity helps protect against the development of diabetes.

5. Osteoporosis Loss of bone mass and density is a particular threat to older women. Doctors believe the foundation for strong bones in adulthood is built in childhood and adolescence when, according to the Surgeon General, "weight-bearing physical activity may play a substantial role in the development of bone mass."

Written by Amy Vershop

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