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Lifestyle Changes Help Teen Improve His Overall Health

March 09, 2017

Last summer, Enrique Meza, 14, was suffering from hypertension (high blood pressure) and his heart was showing signs of increased thickness. Enrique also had acanthosis nigricans, a skin condition that is common in individuals who are overweight or who have prediabetes conditions.

Enrique loved laying on the couch, watching TV, drinking sugary drinks and would often overeat.

But with the help of Lurie Children’s Division of Kidney Diseases, Enrique made serious lifestyle changes to help improve his health. “We have a large patient population that is referred to our division for evaluation of hypertension. After assessing these patients, a common contributing factor to their hypertension is obesity. During our visits, we discuss the long-term effect of hypertension on various body systems. We explain that uncontrolled hypertension can lead to kidney failure, stroke, and heart failure,” says Laura Duffy, APN, Advanced Practice Nurse, Kidney Diseases. “When I meet with my patients and families, I ensure that both the patient and family members review the growth chart of the child. The majority of these patients’ BMI is >99th%. I discuss the importance of making therapeutic lifestyle changes, which include implementing dietary changes and increasing physical activity- with a goal of eliminating the need to start anti-hypertensive medications. If the family is interested, I refer them to our Registered Dietician and/or the Weight and Wellness Management Clinic. The overall goal of this program is to provide education and support for the patient and family with regards to managing their obesity.”

During their visits with the Kidney Division, patients receive health education to improve their lifestyle. These tips include:

  • Minimum of 60 minutes of active play per day
  • Limit TV/screen time to a maximum of 2 hours per day
  • Drink 4 large glasses of water a day
  • Avoid juice or sugary beverages
  • Eat lots of fruits and veggies
  • Eat low fat dairy products
  • Limit sodium intake to 2G per day

Over the last few months, Enrique began to exercise, cut out juice and soda from his diet, managed his food portions, and started eating more vegetables. Enrique says, “With the help of nurse Laura, I know the portions of food I need for my body. I know what foods are not healthy and how important it is to exercise every day.”

His hard-work and determination has paid off. He has lost a total of 60lbs so far and his high blood pressure has stabilized. His skin manifestations have disappeared. His heart size has also decreased to a normal size, indicating healthy weight and blood pressure. He is off all anti-hypertensive medications because of his lifestyle changes.

“Before he made these healthy changes, Enrique’s self-confidence was low and he was often made fun of for being overweight,” says Amada Meza, Enrique’s mom. “Now, he is so proud of his success and hopes he can be an inspiration to other kids.”

The Division of Kidney Diseases (Nephrology) at Lurie Children’s has the region’s largest pediatric kidney diseases (pediatric nephrology) team, caring for more than 4,000 infants, children and adolescents each year.