High cholesterol can start in childhood. High cholesterol levels are likely to continue to rise as a child becomes a teenager and an adult. This increases your child’s risk of cholesterol-related health problems.
What are the risks of high cholesterol?
Your child’s body needs a little cholesterol to protect the nerves, create cellular tissue and produce certain hormones. But too much cholesterol damages blood vessels. Accumulates on the walls of the court. This forms sticky fat deposits called “plaque”. Studies show that plaque can begin to form in childhood. It is more likely to form when a child’s cholesterol levels are high.
High cholesterol levels increase your child’s risk of heart disease and stroke as he or she grows up. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. The risk is higher in people who:
- You have a family history of heart disease or stroke.
- They have diabetes.
- They are overweight or obese.
- They have unhealthy eating habits.
- They are not physically active.
- They smoke or are exposed to passive smoking.
Where does cholesterol come from?
The liver produces all the cholesterol your child’s body needs. He or she also gets cholesterol from food, including animal products such as eggs, meat and dairy products.
What is the difference between “good” cholesterol and “bad” cholesterol?
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is often called “bad” cholesterol. They supply cholesterol to the body. Some people’s bodies produce too much LDL cholesterol. LDL levels are also increased when eating foods high in saturated fat, trans fats and dietary cholesterol.
High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is often called “good” cholesterol. They remove cholesterol from the blood. A healthy level of HDL can help prevent heart disease. Exercise can increase the amount of HDL cholesterol that your body produces. Avoiding trans fats and following a healthy diet can also increase HDL levels.
Cholesterol levels are sometimes high due to high levels of LDL (“bad” cholesterol). This increases the risk of heart disease or stroke. Other times, cholesterol levels are high due to high levels of HDL (“good” cholesterol). This does not increase the risk of heart disease or stroke.
Should I test my child for high cholesterol?
Most children do not need a high cholesterol test. Your child should be tested if there is a family history of high cholesterol. Your doctor will also recommend testing your child or teen for diabetes.
What Causes High Cholesterol In Children?
The following factors can cause high cholesterol levels in children:
- Family history of high cholesterol (eg a parent who has high cholesterol).
- Lack of physical activity.
The road to greater health
You can help your child maintain a healthy weight by making healthy choices. Teach him to choose healthy foods and be physically active. Here are some tips:
- Offer your child at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day. For example, keep healthy snacks like apples, bananas, carrots and celery on hand.
- Include lots of low-fat protein, vegetables and whole grains in the meals you prepare.
- Avoid saturated fats and trans fats. Saturated fats are usually found in animal products (such as fried or fatty meats). They can also be found in dairy products (eg cheese and butter). Many snacks (such as cookies and chips) are high in saturated fat. Trans fats are usually found in processed foods (such as donuts and cookies). They are also found in fried foods (such as french fries and onion rings).
- Avoid fast food. If you eat at a fast food restaurant or a regular meal, choose the healthiest options available. Try a salad with a piece of grilled or roasted meat and a cup of fruit.
- Limit your child’s time on screen (TV, computer, mobile phone or game station) to no more than 1-2 hours a day. Give a good example by limiting your own screen time.
- Encourage your child to find physical activities that they enjoy and stay active. Aim for at least 1 hour of active play every day.
- Make physical activity a part of your family’s lifestyle. Take a walk, ride a bike or do housework together. Plan active family outings.
Aspects to be considered
Healthy eating and physical activity are the first choices for lowering high cholesterol levels in a child or teenager. If that doesn’t help, your family doctor may consider prescribing cholesterol-lowering medications. This type of medicine may be needed if your child has diabetes or is overweight or obese.
Not all medicines are safe for children. Do not give your child cholesterol-lowering drugs that are not explicitly prescribed.
Questions to ask your doctor
- Do I need to test my child’s cholesterol level?
- If my child’s cholesterol level is high now, will it always be high?
- How often should my child’s cholesterol be tested?
- Does my child need to see a specialist?
- Do you recommend other diagnostic tests?
- What are our cholesterol treatment options?
- What are the benefits, risks or side effects of these treatments?
National Institutes of Health, MedlinePlus: Cholesterol
Copyright © American Academy of Family Physicians
This information provides an overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and for more information on this topic.