Children and high cholesterol

When you think of someone with high cholesterol, who do you envision? Probably an older adult. Unfortunately, with the surge of obesity, another group of individuals are being diagnosed with high cholesterol -- children. Childhood obesity is becoming a growing, yet disturbing trend in the urban population of our country. Let’s face it, with the rising popularity of computer games and television shows, more children are opting for sitting on the couch than playing games outside. Many factors could contribute to this, including living a sedentary lifestyle, having a poor diet, and having a parent with high cholesterol.

High cholesterol doesn't occur in every child, but it could have bad consequences later on if it is not properly addressed. It can build up on the walls of arteries as early as childhood, eventually leading to heart disease if it is not treated. Fortunately, high cholesterol is a treatable condition either through lifestyle changes, medication, or both. If your child is at very high risk and has high-cholesterol levels, addressing these issues now can help prevent many complications in adulthood.

High cholesterol levels in children is becoming very common, and the most important culprit is childhood obesity. By making some minor adjustments in your child's life, you could prevent your child's cholesterol levels from getting out of hand.

The good news is that whether your child has just been diagnosed with high cholesterol levels — or you just want to prevent it from happening — there are ways that you can help:

  • Reduce the amount of fast foods and junk foods your child consumes. Lean meats, fruits, vegetables and whole grains are healthy choices and are low in fat and contain a lot of nutrients children need for growth.
  • If the child has been diagnosed with a condition, such as familial hypercholesterimia the amount of saturated fat, like ghee, consumed by your child should be no more than 7% of their daily caloric intake.
  • Limit your child’s “tube time." Instead of your child sitting in front of the TV or computer, encourage your child to play outdoors. Exercise has a variety of healthy benefits for your child, including keeping their cholesterol levels within normal levels. You may even want to put on your tennis shoes and join your child — exercise is healthy for adults too.
  • Substitute healthy snacks for unhealthy ones. Make sure that you have plenty of fruits and vegetables on hand for your child to snack on. These are excellent choices to substitute the chips, cookies or other junk foods that they may snack on. Adding healthier alternatives to your child’s daily meals will lead to lower cholesterol levels, a healthier weight and the likelihood that they will make healthier foods choices later on in life.

Is medication necessary?

It depends on your child's cholesterol levels and other risk factors they may have. The good news is that, in some cases, high cholesterol in children can be lowered without medication. Your child’s pediatrician will determine whether or not cholesterol-lowering medication is needed based on your child’s LDL cholesterol levels, otherwise known as the “bad” cholesterol, and their risk factors for having heart disease.

Monitoring your child with high cholesterol includes keeping track of height, weight, body mass index, and onset of puberty, since cholesterol levels can change with physical and sexual development. So stop worrying and start exercising with your child and get rid of those extra calories.

We are socially connected