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What Causes High Cholesterol In Kids

What Causes High Cholesterol In Children And Teens

What causes high cholesterol?

Three main factors contribute to high cholesterol in children and teens:

  • An unhealthy diet, especially one that is high in fats
  • A family history of high cholesterol, especially when one or both parents have high cholesterol

Some diseases, such as diabetes, kidney disease, and certain thyroid diseases, can also cause high cholesterol in children and teens.

Should My Child Have A Blood Lipid Test

A lipid screening is a test to look at the levels of the fats in the blood. In the past, doctors felt that children and teens were not at risk for high cholesterol levels. But we now know that children and teens are at risk. This is due to things such as:

  • Being inactive from too much screen time and not enough exercise

  • High-fat or high-sugar diets

  • Obesity

  • Family history of high cholesterol levels

Children and teens with high cholesterol are at higher risk for heart disease as adults. Keeping blood cholesterol levels in the normal range reduces this risk.

What To Do If A Child Has High Cholesterol

If a lipid screening test shows that your childs cholesterol is high, your doctor will recommend what actions to take.

The first line of treatment is through changes in diet and increased physical activity, says Brothers. Children with high cholesterol who are overweight or obese usually respond well to these diet and lifestyle modifications.

If diet and exercise dont work to bring cholesterol levels down, your doctor may recommend treatment with statins, which are drugs to reduce cholesterol. Studies have found statins to be safe and effective for children as young as 8 for certain genetic lipid disorders, says Brothers. But they must be used carefully. Once started, they are a lifetime commitment.

Dr. Brothers has seen the benefits of early detection and treatment. Lifestyle changes to manage high cholesterol in children can do more than reduce the risk of heart disease as adults. Healthy habits started young, like regular exercise and healthy eating, can have lasting benefits for life.

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What Is Pediatric High Cholesterol

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance. It is essential to building cells and making some vitamins and hormones. High cholesterol means high levels of a low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, commonly called LDL. High cholesterol in children is linked to early onset atherosclerosis and future cardiovascular disease.

How To Lower Cholesterol

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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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What Should Kids With High Cholesterol Eat

You can help increase your child’s good cholesterol by adding monounsaturated fats to your child’s diet. These healthy fats can assist in bringing your child’s cholesterol to a healthy level. Additionally, consuming whole grains along with high-fiber fruits and vegetables can aid cholesterol levels in your child as part of an overall healthy diet.

How Can I Help Lower My Child’s Cholesterol

The American Academy of Pediatrics currently recommends that children two years and older follow a healthy diet according to the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans. This should include low-fat dairy products. For children 12 months to two years of age who are overweight or obese, or who have a family history of obesity, high cholesterol, or cardiovascular disease, the use of reduced-fat milk is recommended.

You can help lower your child’s cholesterol levels by encouraging him or her to do the following:

Select a variety of foods so your child can get all the nutrients he or she needs. Children and adolescents at higher risk for cardiovascular disease with elevated LDL values above their target goals are advised to undergo nutritional counseling and take part in regular physical activity.

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How Is High Cholesterol In Children Treated

The best way to treat cholesterol in children is with a diet and exercise program that involves the entire family. If changes in diet and exercise do not have the desired effect, medicine might be considered for children older than eight.

Some drugs used to treat cholesterol in children include cholestyramine, colestipol, and colesevelam. Recent studies in children with very high cholesterol have supported the safe use of drugs in the statin class. A child’s cholesterol levels should be re-tested after three months of dietary changes and/or medicines.

What Causes High Cholesterol In Children

Causes of High Cholesterol

There is no single cause of high cholesterol in children and teens, and it is often due to a combination of different factors, such as :

  • Genetics: Familial hypercholesterolemia or FH is a genetic disorder in which the body recycles LDL cholesterol instead of removing it from the body. As a result, the LDL levels in the blood elevate . The disorder affects one in 500 children. A child inheriting the gene from both parents is at higher risk of developing cardiovascular diseases .
  • Dietary habits: Children and teens consuming processed foods rich in saturated fat and deep-fried foods high in trans fats are at a higher risk of developing high cholesterol levels. A few examples of such foods include commercially baked cookies, cakes, crackers, and buns. Foods naturally high in cholesterol and low in fiber, such as red meat and full-fat dairy, could also increase cholesterol levels .
  • Sedentary lifestyle: According to the CDC, children between the ages of eight and ten and 11 and 14 spend six hours and nine hours of screen time each day, respectively. Screen time includes playing video games and watching TV . Excess screen time leads to a sedentary lifestyle, which can increase the risk of weight gain, which in turn could increase the chances of having high cholesterol .
  • Apart from these, certain medications can also cause high cholesterol levels in children.

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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.

    Ways To Lower Cholesterol

    Check your own cholesterol level and if it’s high, ask to have your kids’ levels checked.

    Here are 5 ways to help keep your family’s cholesterol in control:

  • Serve a heart-healthy diet, including:- vegetables, fruit, and whole grains- lean meats and poultry, fish, nuts, beans, and soy products- nonfat or low-fat milk and dairy products- healthy fats, like those found in fish, nuts, and vegetable oils
  • Limit drinks and foods with added sugars.
  • Read nutrition facts labels so that you can limit cholesterol and saturated fat and trans fat.
  • Encourage plenty of exercise. Exercise helps boost HDL levels in the blood and that’s a good thing! Kids and teens should be physically active at least 60 minutes a day.
  • Help your kids keep a healthy weight.
  • It’s important to make healthy living a family effort. The steps you take to improve your family’s lifestyle will have a positive effect on your family’s health now and far into the future.

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    Ldl Cholesterol Or Bad Cholesterol

    Low-density lipoprotein is often called bad cholesterol. It carries cholesterol to your arteries. If your levels of LDL cholesterol are too high, it can build up on the walls of your arteries.

    The buildup is also known as cholesterol plaque. This plaque can narrow your arteries, limit your blood flow, and raise your risk of blood clots. If a blood clot blocks an artery in your heart or brain, it can cause a heart attack or stroke.

    According to the

    High Cholesterol In The United States

    What Causes Rapid Rise In Cholesterol ...
    • In 20152016, more than 12% of adults age 20 and older had total cholesterol higher than 240 mg/dL, and more than 18% had high-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels less than 40 mg/dL.1
    • Slightly more than half of the U.S. adults who could benefit from cholesterol medicine are currently taking it.2
    • 93 million U.S. adults age 20 or older have total cholesterol levels higher than 200 mg/dL. Nearly 29 million adult Americans have total cholesterol levels higher than 240 mg/dL.3
    • 7% of U.S. children and adolescents ages 6 to 19 have high total cholesterol.3
    • High cholesterol has no symptoms, so many people dont know that their cholesterol is too high. A simple blood test can check cholesterol levels.
    • Having high blood cholesterol raises the risk for heart disease, the leading cause of death, and for stroke, the fifth leading cause of death.

    Source: Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System

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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

    How to prevent and treat high cholesterol.

    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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    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.

    Recent Guidelines For Normal Cholesterol Levels

    High cholesterol and kids

    Your body needs some cholesterol to function properly, including some LDL. But if your LDL levels are too high, it can raise your risk of serious health problems.

    In 2013, the American College of Cardiologists and the American Heart Association developed new guidelines for the treatment of high cholesterol.

    Before this change, doctors would manage cholesterol based on numbers in a cholesterol levels chart. Your doctor would measure your total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, and LDL cholesterol levels. They would then decide whether to prescribe a cholesterol-lowering medication based on how your numbers compared to the numbers in the chart.

    Under the new guidelines, in addition to your cholesterol levels, treatment recommendations consider other risk factors for heart disease. These risk factors include diabetes and the estimated 10-year risk for a cardiac event such as a heart attack or stroke. So what your normal cholesterol levels are depends on whether you have other risk factors for heart disease.

    These new guidelines recommend that if you dont have risk factors for heart disease, your doctor should prescribe treatment if your LDL is greater than 189 mg/dL. To find out what your personal cholesterol recommendations are, talk to your doctor.

    With the changes mentioned above in the treatment guidelines for high cholesterol, cholesterol charts are no longer considered the best way for doctors to gauge the management of cholesterol levels in adults.

    Total cholesterol

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    How Is High Cholesterol Addressed In Children

    The relevant resolution of high cholesterol depends on your childs age, lipid screening report, and overall health condition. Below are the likely options to normalize high cholesterol in children .

  • Dietary counseling: Based on the childs weight and cholesterol levels, a certified nutritionist will give a diet plan to the family with meal suggestions, a list of low-fat foods, recommended portion sizes, and tips to avoid high-fat foods. The changes will aim to increase good cholesterol and reduce bad cholesterol through healthy weight management/loss.
  • Exercise planning: The CDC recommends 60 minutes or more of moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity each day for children between six and 17 years . An exercise expert will help plan an exercise/workout routine for the child on the same lines. The planning will depend on the childs age, weight, health status, time availability, and interest. Research shows that regular exercise can increase good cholesterol and reduce bad cholesterol in the body.
  • Medications: In most cases, dietary changes and exercise are sufficient to manage cholesterol levels. However, if they dont, the doctor may recommend cholesterol-lowering medication, such as statins and niacin. These medications may be considered in cases of children older than ten years.
  • Living With High Cholesterol

    If you have high cholesterol, you are twice as likely to develop heart disease. That is why it is important to have your cholesterol levels checked, especially if you have a family history of heart disease. Reducing your LDL bad cholesterol through good diet, exercise, and medicine can make a positive impact on your overall health.

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    How Is High Cholesterol In Children Diagnosed

    Healthcare 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.

    • Medical treatment of elevated LDL if the value is greater than 190 mg/dL in patients with no risk factors for cardiovascular disease and if diet modification has been unsuccessful.
    • Medical treatment for patients with an LDL greater than 160 mg/dL who have a family history of an early onset of cardiovascular disease or other risk factors, including obesity, hypertension, or cigarette smoking.
    • Medical treatment for patients with an LDL greater than 130 mg/dL who have diabetes.

    Are There Any Treatments For High Cholesterol Levels Caused By Genetics

    High cholesterol symptoms

    Usually, the first line of treatment for high cholesterol is lifestyle modification, but if you have FH youll need more advanced treatment. Its always important to eat a low-fat diet, exercise and control your weight. Having a healthy lifestyle is crucial for heart health and for overall health, says Martin. However, people with FH could eat an extremely low-fat diet and still not be able to control their cholesterol because theyre genetically unable to handle it. For them, cholesterol is going to build up in the bloodstream regardless of what they eat.

    Fortunately, there are medications that can substantially lower LDL cholesterol levels. The most common treatment for FH is statin drug therapy. Statin drugs work by blocking an enzyme that produces cholesterol in the liver and increases your bodys ability to remove cholesterol from the blood. They can lower your LDL cholesterol levels by 50 percent or more. Statins have been safely used to reduce the risk of heart disease for 30 years and continue to be the number one option when it comes to helping people with FH.

    Other treatment options include medications that block cholesterol from being absorbed from your intestines into your bloodstream, or drugs that block an enzyme called PCSK9, which reduces the amount of LDL cholesterol in your blood.

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    What Are The Symptoms Of High Cholesterol In Children

    High cholesterol is a silent condition with no apparent symptoms . Therefore, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends checking the cholesterol of children and teens once between nine and 11 years and again between 17 and 21 years .

    For children older than two years, cholesterol screening is usually a must, if :

    • They are overweight or obese.
    • They have a parent or other family member with a total cholesterol level of higher than 240mg/dL.
    • They have a family history of cardiovascular disease before 55 years in men and 65 years in women.
    • They have one or more chronic medical conditions, such as kidney disease, Kawasaki disease, juvenile idiopathic arthritis, an underactive thyroid, and diabetes.


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