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Kids with High Cholesterol, What Parents Should Know

kids with high cholesterol

Years ago, few people thought about high cholesterol in kids, because such a health issue was believed to be most reserved for adults. Now a new study found that about one-third of kids ages 9 to 11 years screened for high cholesterol had borderline or high levels of the artery-clogging substance.

Parents of young children should heed the findings of this study, which were presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 63rd Annual Scientific Sessions, especially if their kids are overweight or obese. That’s because obese children are more likely to have an elevated level of total cholesterol as well as high levels of triglycerides and bad cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein, LDL).

Kids at risk for future cardiovascular disease
These lipid results, as well as high-density lipoprotein (HDL, good cholesterol) levels that are too low, all are risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Heart disease can affect more than adults, and a growing number of children are unknowingly laying the foundation for future cardiovascular problems during their childhood years by accumulating cholesterol in their blood vessels.

The researchers, led by Thomas Seery, MD, pediatric cardiologist at Texas Children’s Hospital and assistant professor of Pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine, observed the potential for that risk in 4,709 (30%) of the 12,712 children whose medical records were examined. That means nearly one-third of young people in that age group have the potential for a future cardiovascular condition or event.

Read about kids and heart attack risks

Specifically, here’s what the researchers found:

  • Boys were more likely than girls to have high levels of total cholesterol, triglycerides, and LDL cholesterol
  • Girls were more likely to have lower HDL cholesterol
  • Obese kids were more likely to have high total cholesterol, triglycerides, and LDL and lower HDL than were children who were not obese
  • Hispanic children were more likely to have high triglycerides and lower HDL levels than were non-Hispanics

What parents can do
Parents should be familiar with the latest guidelines for cholesterol screening for children. Those recommendations were issued in November 2011 by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

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Those new guidelines superceded others that indicated the use of non-fasting cholesterol screening only for kids who were considered to be at high risk for the high cholesterol (i.e., those with a family history of heart disease or high cholesterol). The new recommendations, however, call for at least one non-fasting lipid screening for all kids ages 9 to 11. Screening should be repeated when kids are between the ages of 17 and 21.

In addition, children ages 2 to 8 and those 12 to 16 years of age who are at risk for high cholesterol should be screened. Those risk factors include the following:

  • Having a parent or other close relative with a total cholesterol level of more than 240 mg/dL
  • A family history of cardiovascular disease before age 55 in men and 65 in women
  • Overweight or obesity
  • Presence of diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney disease, juvenile idiopathic arthritis, Kawasaki disease, or smoking behavior

Parents should also know the normal and high levels of total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol for children ages 2 to 18 years. They are:

  • Total cholesterol: less than 170 mg/dL is acceptable, 170-199 is borderline, and 200 or greater is high
  • LDL cholesterol: less than 100 mg/dL is acceptable, 110-129 is borderline, and 130 or greater is high

Prevention and treatment of high cholesterol does not need to involve medication such as statins. In fact, the first line of action includes eating a healthy diet and regular physical activity. Parents can discuss nutrition and exercise with their pediatrician and a nutritionist.

Read about high cholesterol meds for children

Entire families who adopt healthful lifestyle habits will do everyone a favor and make it easier for kids to make changes. Kids with high cholesterol or who are in danger of developing this potentially life-threatening condition need guidance from their parents and healthcare providers.

Read about the side effects of statins

American College of Cardiology. Concerning number of kids have elevated cholesterol. ScienceDaily 28 March 2014

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