By now, many of you have heard the recommendations that children be screened for high cholesterol. But many parents wonder “Should my child be screened? Is my child really at risk? What if it comes back high?”
Unfortunately, cholesterol problems in childhood are becoming more and more common. And just screening children with a family history of high cholesterol and heart disease is not effective in finding all children with high cholesterol.
The good news is in the majority of cases, children can improve their cholesterol by making some simple, healthy changes to their diet. By getting specific nutritional advice from a physician or registered dietician, very few children will require medications!
Cholesterol problems can be apparent as young as age two with a high LDL (“bad” cholesterol). This can be a genetic disorder, meaning that it runs in the family and is passed down from one generation to the next. If a parent has genetically high cholesterol, there is a 50 percent chance that a child will inherit this. This type of cholesterol can lead to early heart disease if not found and treated early.
Other types of cholesterol problems can relate to a child’s weight. If children go through a period where they gain too much weight, they are at risk for a different type of high cholesterol (high triglycerides). They can also have low levels of HDL, the “good” cholesterol, which should be high. These problems can also be fixed early with specific nutritional counseling and weight management. The longer these problems continue, the harder they are to treat.
“It is so important to find this out early, so changes can be made to prevent cholesterol buildup in the arteries,” says Dr. Julia Nordrgren, the Pediatric Lipid Specialist at the Center for Advanced Pediatrics. “I think parents truly benefit by knowing if their child has high cholesterol, so they can really learn which particular foods help, or harm, their child’s developing body. Our goal is to give medically sound nutrition information to help families develop the best habits they can. Feeding your family in a healthy way can be such a challenge in this day and age. We are here for education and support, and very rarely are medications needed.”
At the Center for Advanced Pediatrics, our focus is to help your child stay happy and healthy for as long as possible. Screening for cholesterol problems early and taking early action is another way we are focusing on prevention.