Soooooo What Can You Do About It
Kids might not commiserate over their cholesterol levels on the playground like coworkers chatting about weight at a water cooler. Still, moms and dads do need to be aware of how their childrens cholesterol today may affect them much later.
Heredity, obesity and a diet high in fats are the three major factors that contribute to high cholesterol levels. But high blood pressure, smoking and diabetes increase a childs risk for heart disease, too. So, if your child is active, eats healthy foods, isnt overweight, and doesnt have a family history of obesity or potential heart problems, you probably dont have to worry much.
But, whether your child is at risk or not, its still wise to:
And, by all means, make exercise a part of your kids and your familys everyday routine. Make fitness time together time walking, hiking, biking, shooting some hoops, playing tennis, participating in classes . Whatever you do, just keep moving and motivating your kids to do the same. Physical activity helps boost the good cholesterol levels in the blood, which means you and your kids will be far less likely to become a heart disease statistic down the road.
How Is High Cholesterol Diagnosed
All kids should have their cholesterol checked when they’re between 9 and 11 years old and again when they’re between 17 and 21.
Kids over 2 years old should be tested if they:
- have a parent or other close relative with a total cholesterol higher than 240 mg/dL
- have a family history of cardiovascular disease before age 55 in men and age 65 in women
- have some kinds of medical conditions
- are overweight or obese
- have diabetes, high blood pressure, or smoke cigarettes
Your doctor can order a blood test to check your child’s cholesterol. Your child may have to fast before the test.
According to the National Cholesterol Education Program guidelines, the ranges of total and LDL cholesterol for kids and teens 218 years old are:
mg/dL = milligrams per deciliter
Cholesterol Screening For Children
In 2011, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, issued guidelines on screening children for high cholesterol these guidelines are also endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics. They recommend that doctors screen all children at least once for high cholesterol between ages 9 and 11 and again at ages 17 to 21.
In children with a family history of premature heart disease or elevated cholesterol, screening should be considered at age 2, according to the National Lipid Association.
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What Is The Normal Cholesterol Level For A Child
High cholesterol in children and adults is defined as total cholesterol over 200 mg/dL. Specifically, LDL or triglycerides greater than 130 mg/dL or HDL less than 40 mg/L are considered abnormal. For children, staying under these levels is considered healthy.
“The American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute recommend universal lipid screening for children ages 9-11 and 17-21,” says Dr. Patni. For children with other risk factors, cholesterol screening may occur sooner. Cholesterol screening for kids involves a non-fasting, non-HDL test. Any abnormal childhood cholesterol screenings should have at least two follow-up, fasting lipid profiles to evaluate overall cholesterol levels.
Causes Of High Cholesterol Blood Levels In The Body
The body gets its cholesterol from two sources:
- The liver produces 80 percent of the body requirement. In hypercholesterolemia due to hereditary causes, the liver produces more of cholesterol,
- The balance 20 percent comes from the foods that you eat.
High levels are, therefore, caused either by overproduction by the liver or excess consumption from the high-fat foods that you eat.
Besides these, there are other nondietary causes and risk factors why you can get abnormal levels. They are explained here:
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How Can I Lower My Cholesterol Level
The first step in reducing your cholesterol is to maintain a healthy, balanced diet. It’s important to keep your diet low in fatty food.
You can swap food containing saturated fat for fruit, vegetables and wholegrain cereals. This will also help prevent high cholesterol returning.
If these measures don’t reduce your cholesterol and you continue to have a high risk of developing heart disease, your GP may prescribe a cholesterol-lowering medication, such as statins.
Your GP will take into account the risk of any side effects from statins. The benefit of lowering your cholesterol must outweigh any risks.
Read more about how high cholesterol is treated
When Should My Cholesterol Levels Be Tested
Your GP may recommend that you have your blood cholesterol levels tested if you:
- have been diagnosed with coronary heart disease, stroke or mini stroke , or peripheral arterial disease
- have a family history of early cardiovascular disease
- have a close family member who has a cholesterol-related condition
- are overweight
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A Mom Wants People To Know Kids Can Have Hypercholesterolemia
When your child looks and acts healthy, its hard to understand how they could have a condition that, without proper treatment, could cause them to have a heart attack or stroke before the age of 50. Maria Gutierrez found herself in this situation when she received a life-changing phone call from Don Wilson, M.D., an endocrinologist and medical director of the REACH Clinic at Cook Childrens to discuss her daughter Kate.
When Kate was 4 years old, doctors told Maria that Kate was overweight and might be developing thyroid issues. Maria encouraged Kate to be more active and eat healthier. Her daughters change of lifestyle seemed to be the answer and by age 7 Kate was no longer overweight.
Kate is always very hyper, very active. She eats vegetables! She loves cucumbers, lemons, loves fruits, loves everything, Maria said. Why would doctors call now to suggest blood tests when shes healthy?
According to the REACH Clinic, ideal total cholesterol levels should be less than 170 mg/dL, or LDL cholesterol levels less than 130 mg/dL. Kates lab work showed her cholesterol levels at 250 mg/dL, and she was diagnosed with hypercholesterolemia.
Both Kate and Brandon take medicine daily to treat their high cholesterol. Their schedules for lab work vary depending on how well they respond to their medication. Its been two years since their diagnoses.
How To Lower Cholesterol
If you have high cholesterol, your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes to help lower it. For instance, they may recommend changes to your diet, exercise habits, or other aspects of your daily routine. If you smoke tobacco products, they will likely advise you to quit.
Your doctor may also prescribe medications or other treatments to help lower your cholesterol levels. In some cases, they may refer you to a specialist for more care. See how long it may take for your cholesterol treatment to work.
To help you achieve and maintain healthy cholesterol levels, your doctor may recommend changes to your diet.
For example, they may advise you to:
- limit your intake of foods that are high in cholesterol, saturated fats, and trans fats
- choose lean sources of protein, such as chicken, fish, and legumes
- eat a wide variety of high-fiber foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
- opt for baked, broiled, steamed, grilled, and roasted foods instead of fried foods
- avoid fast food and junk food
Foods that are high in cholesterol, saturated fats, or trans fats include:
- red meat, organ meats, egg yolks, and high-fat dairy products
- processed foods made with cocoa butter, palm oil, or coconut oil
- deep fried foods, such as potato chips, onion rings, and fried chicken
- certain baked goods, such as some cookies and muffins
For example, the following products contain high levels of cholesterol:
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Triglycerides A Different Type Of Lipid
Triglycerides are another type of lipid. Theyre different from cholesterol. While your body uses cholesterol to build cells and certain hormones, it uses triglycerides as a source of energy.
When you eat more calories than your body can use right away, it converts those calories into triglycerides. It stores triglycerides in your fat cells. It also uses lipoproteins to circulate triglycerides through your bloodstream.
If you regularly eat more calories than your body can use, your triglyceride levels can get high. This may raise your risk of several health problems, including heart disease and stroke.
Your doctor can use a simple blood test to measure your triglyceride level, as well as your cholesterol levels. Learn how to get your triglyceride level tested.
Complications Of High Cholesterol And Covid
When LDL builds up in the blood, it can narrow or clog the arteries, raising your risk of having a:
- Heart attack
- Heart condition
COVID-19 puts the body in a pro-inflammatory state, damaging the heart and lung tissues while also increasing the risk of coagulopathy or blood clots. Those with high cholesterol and COVID-19 are at even higher risk of experiencing a cardiovascular event.
If you are obese or have high cholesterol levels, you may require more rigorous social distancing or shielding from people to avoid COVID-19 infection and subsequent complications.
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How To Lower Cholesterol Naturally
In some cases, you may be able to lower your cholesterol levels without taking medications. For example, it may be enough to eat a nutritious diet, exercise regularly, and avoid smoking tobacco products.
Some people also claim that certain herbal and nutritional supplements may help lower cholesterol levels. For instance, such claims have been made about:
- ground flax seed
However, the level of evidence supporting these claims varies. Also, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration hasnt approved any of these products for treating high cholesterol. More research is needed to learn if they can help treat this condition.
Always talk to your doctor before taking any herbal or nutritional supplements. In some cases, they might interact with other medications youre taking. Learn more about natural remedies for high cholesterol.
Genetic risk factors for high cholesterol cant be controlled. However, lifestyle factors can be managed.
To lower your risk of developing high cholesterol:
- Eat a nutritious diet thats low in cholesterol and animal fats, and high in fiber.
- Avoid excessive alcohol consumption.
- Exercise regularly.
- Dont smoke.
You should also follow your doctors recommendations for routine cholesterol screening. If youre at risk of high cholesterol or coronary heart disease, they will likely encourage you to get your cholesterol levels tested on a regular basis. Find out how to get your cholesterol levels checked.
What Is The Treatment For High Cholesterol In Children
Because most parents whose children have high cholesterol have high levels themselves, and because diet and exercise monitored by a parent are so important in lowering cholesterol levels, treatment is a family affair.
- Do not scare your child. Present the facts about high cholesterol in an age-appropriate way. Ask your health care professional for advice. Discuss ways to help your child improve his or her health. Do not present it as treatment for a disease. Emphasis should be made that the goal is for everyone in the family to be as healthy as possible.
- Plan family meals and monitor what your child eats. Pay special attention to cholesterol and fats in foods. If your child eats a school-sponsored lunch, make sure that his or her choices are all healthy options. Pizza, hamburgers, French fries, and fried chicken strips should be avoided.
- Plan family activities that involve exercise, such as walks, hikes, games, and organized sports. Adults should have 45 minutes a day of moderate intensity activity children should participate in 60 minutes a day in vigorous play a day.
- Have your child’s cholesterol levels retested after 3 months of changes in diet.
- Talk with your child’s health care professional about the use of medication. It is usually only considered for children older than 10 years, and ONLY after changes in diet and exercise have been tried.
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Take A Look At Your Lifestyle
You can make lifestyle changes to improve your cholesterol numbers.
Your body naturally produces all the LDL cholesterol it needs. An unhealthy lifestyle makes your body produce more LDL cholesterol than it needs. This is the cause of high LDL cholesterol for most people.
Behaviors that can negatively affect your cholesterol levels include:
- Unhealthy diet
- Smoking or exposure to tobacco smoke
- Being overweight or obese
What Is High Blood Cholesterol
High blood cholesterol, also called hypercholesterolemia, is an unhealthy level of cholesterol in the blood. Having high levels of blood cholesterol can cause your child to have heart problems when he or she gets older. But there are changes you can make in your child’s diet now to lower the blood cholesterol.
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Inheriting Issues With Cholesterol
Familial hypercholesterolemia is an inherited defect in how the body recycles LDL cholesterol. As a result, LDL levels in the blood remain very high in severe cases, levels can reach above 190 milligrams per deciliter of blood.
People with FH are essentially born with high LDL cholesterol. Everyones cholesterol levels tend to rise with age. But those with FH have LDL levels that start high and go even higher over time.
Just like with non-inherited cholesterol issues, this contributes to atherosclerotic plaques, leading to a much higher-than-normal risk of coronary heart disease. If left untreated, people with FH have 20 times the risk of developing heart disease.
Men with FH get coronary heart disease up to 10 to 20 years earlier. Half of men with untreated FH will have a heart attack or angina before they turn 50. For some it will be as early as their 20s. In women, coronary heart disease appears up to 20 to 30 years earlier. About 30% of untreated women will have a heart attack before they turn 60.
These increased risks are independent of other risk factors, which can make matters worse. The good news: FH is treatable with a combination of lifestyle changes and medications.
Other Complications Due To Embolism
At times, the plaque gets ruptured and flows freely in the blood as what is called a clot or a thrombus. This traveling clot or thrombus or more commonly embolus may get lodged anywhere and present complications pertaining to the site where it is lodged. Such a condition is called thrombosis.
- Pulmonary embolism. The embolus may get lodged in the lungs and can cause pulmonary embolism. This almost always results in death.
- Peripheral vascular disease. The embolus may get lodged in the lower extremities when it causes pain, swelling and redness of the legs. Loss of blood supply to part of the lower limbs can lead to infection and even gangrene.
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How Is High Cholesterol Diagnosed In Children
Health care professionals can check cholesterol in school-age children with a simple blood test. Conducting such a test is especially important if there is a strong family history of heart disease or if a parent of the child has high cholesterol. The blood test results will reveal whether a child’s cholesterol is too high.
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that all children should be screened once between ages 9 and 11 and again between ages 17 and 21.
Selective screening is recommended for kids with type 1 or 2 diabetes, or a family history of high cholesterol or a family history of premature heart disease . Screening is also recommended for kids who have a body mass index greater than the 95th percentile in children ages ages 2-8 or in older children with a BMI greater than the 85th percentile and who have other risk factors such as exposure to tobacco smoke, diabetes, or high blood pressure.
First screening is recommended after age 2, but no later than age 10. Children under age 2 should not be screened. If the fasting lipid profile is normal, a child should be screened again in 3 to 5 years.
For kids who are overweight or obese and who have a high blood-fat level or low level of “good” HDL cholesterol, weight management is the primary treatment. This means improved diet with nutritional counseling and increased physical exercise.
High Cholesterol By Itself Is A Warning Sign Of Hypothyroidism
Your thyroid gland is one of the primary controllers of cholesterol in your body.
What does this mean?
When there is a problem in your thyroid gland it will manifest as a problem in your cholesterol level.
The bigger the problem in your thyroid the bigger the change in your cholesterol.
Thyroid hormone, specifically the most powerful thyroid hormone T3, regulates an enzyme known as HMG-CoA reductase .
This is the SAME enzyme that medications like statins, like Lipitor, interfere with.
But thyroid hormone doesn’t just stop there.
It also regulates HDL metabolism, LPL, VLDL, and triglyceride metabolism.
You don’t have to know the specifics but you should know that changes in your thyroid can dramatically impact your cholesterol at many levels.
Several studies have shown that an abnormal TSH, even in the upper level of what is considered “normal”, increases the risk that you will have high cholesterol.
What does this mean for you?
If you have high cholesterol the FIRST thing that you should look at is your thyroid level as the primary CAUSE of that problem.
Does it mean that your thyroid is always the cause of high cholesterol levels?
Not necessarily, but you can’t just assume that it isn’t.
Every patient with high cholesterol should undergo screening for low thyroid the CORRECT way .
If your doctor hasn’t done that, and you are currently taking a medication for high cholesterol, you should go back immediately and get tested.
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