High cholesterol in children was the least of my worries when my twins were younger. In fact, diet wasn’t a huge issue when they were growing up, nothing like today where parents are warned against giving their children a whole host of different foods and drink.
My girls were good eaters but I cannot say their diet was completely healthy, not when I consider what professionals would warn against children eating in this day and age. I always tried to provide them with homemade meals, while takeaways were not as popular then as they are now, fast food you could cook in the microwave was just beginning to take off.
During my research for my own healthy eating changes, I was shocked to discover that high cholesterol in children is very much an issue.
High Cholesterol in Children Is More Likely if Parents Have High Cholesterol Levels
According to the doctors at eMedicine Health children who have parents that suffer from high cholesterol, are more likely to suffer from elevated cholesterol levels themselves. Doctors, therefore recommend that these children are monitored carefully, with a blood test being available for children aged between nine and fifteen years of age.
The most common treatment for high cholesterol levels in a child, is for them to be placed on a strict cholesterol reducing diet. In most cases, this is enough to bring the child’s LDL level back within a manageable range.
I was also surprised to learn from my research that;
- High cholesterol can occur in individuals who are not overweight
- High cholesterol is twice as likely in a child who has a history of cardiovascular disease in their immediate family.
Now as I suffered from high cholesterol and my sister had recently been diagnosed with the early stages of cardiovascular disease, my worries naturally turned to my own daughters.
While my girls are both at an appropriate weight, I knew that living by themselves would mean their diets would be less than impressive. I rang both girls and explained that I wanted them to go to the doctor, explain their family history and request a cholesterol blood test.
High Cholesterol in Children May Need to be Treated with Medication
As is the case with some adults, there are certain instances when high cholesterol in children needs to be treated with special medication known as statins. While doctors are reluctant to prescribe such medication, in cases where the child has a family history of high cholesterol and heart disease they are left with little option.
Medication is always prescribed alongside an exercise program and cholesterol reducing diet. Children considered high risk will have their cholesterol levels monitored on a regular basis. Children with slightly elevated levels will be tested between the ages of nine and fifteen, and then again between the ages of sixteen and twenty.
High cholesterol in children is often misunderstood by the parents
There is so much information out there about what children should and shouldn’t be eating, that there is no surprise many parents are confused.
While parents know a diet of fast food, chocolate and fat is not good for their children, many do not understand what constitutes a high cholesterol diet. In fact, many would assume that high cholesterol levels are something only adults need to worry about.
This lack of education means many cases of high cholesterol in children goes undetected.
There is a serious medical concern regarding cholesterol and children, as it is believed that, the fatty plaque that builds up in a person’s arteries that eventually causes heart disease actually starts in childhood.
High Cholesterol in Children is Completely Symptom Free
Although high cholesterol in adults can be symptomless, it isn’t unusual for many people to suffer from an enlarged liver or spleen, as well as fatty deposits on the skin. Children with high cholesterol however, rarely suffer from any symptoms, which is why blood testing is so important.
When my daughters were tested, it was revealed that Anna had a high cholesterol level. While the level was not overly concerning, it was enough for the doctor to recommend she make some serious adjustments to her diet and exercise routine.
This only served to prove to me that cholesterol levels are important, no matter how old a person or how good they believe their weight or diet to be. Fortunately, Anna is still young enough to make the positive changes and ensure the consequences of her high cholesterol are minimal – this is not always the case if high risk children are not tested frequently, or even at all.
In children a cholesterol level of 190 mg/dl or more is considered high, however children who have a family history of high cholesterol, strokes or heart disease a level of 160 mg/dl is said to be a risk. According to the American Academy of Paediatrics, female children are more at risk from high cholesterol although the reasons for this are unclear. No matter what the risks are, a cholesterol reducing diet can only be a good thing, regardless of the individual cholesterol risk.
Statistics Predict a Bleak Feature if Cholesterol Levels in Children are Ignored
Unfortunately, if the high cholesterol in children issues are not addressed now, the British Heart Foundation predicts the number of deaths from heart disease to be almost double what they are today in the next fifteen years.
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