How Do I Know If My Child Or Teen Has High Cholesterol
There is a blood test to measure cholesterol levels. The test gives information about
- Total cholesterol – a measure of the total amount of cholesterol in your blood. It includes both low-density lipoprotein cholesterol and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol.
- LDL cholesterol – the main source of cholesterol buildup and blockage in the arteries
- HDL cholesterol – HDL helps remove cholesterol from your arteries
- Non-HDL – this number is your total cholesterol minus your HDL. Your non-HDL includes LDL and other types of cholesterol such as VLDL .
- Triglycerides – another form of fat in your blood that can raise your risk for heart disease
For anyone aged 19 or younger, the healthy levels of cholesterol are
|Type of Cholesterol|
|HDL||More than 45mg/dL|
When and how often your child or teen should get this test depends on his or her age, risk factors, and family history. The general recommendations are:
- The first test should be between ages 9 to 11
- Children should have the test again every 5 years
- Some children may have this test starting at age 2 if there is a family history of high blood cholesterol, heart attack, or stroke
How Much Cholesterol Do We Need
Cholesterol is in every cell of your body. Your body needs cholesterol to make hormones and help your brain, skin, and other organs work the way they should. But too much cholesterol in the blood can clog the arteries that carry blood around your body.
Cholesterol that builds up in a person’s blood vessels over many years could lead to:
- a heart attack that can damage the heart
- a stroke that can damage the brain
Cholesterol can start to build up in childhood and teen years. Doctors can find out what your cholesterol level is by ordering a blood test.
What Age Should I Get Screened For High Blood Cholesterol
About 1 in 5 adolescents have an unhealthy cholesterol reading,1 and nearly 93 million U.S. adults age 20 or older have high cholesterol.2 But since high cholesterol doesnt have symptoms, many people dont know their levels are high.
Cholesterol should be checked starting early in lifeeven children and adolescents should have their cholesterol checked.
Cholesterol testing should be done
- Every 5 years for people age 20 or older who are at low risk for cardiovascular disease.3
- More frequently than every 5 years for people with cardiovascular disease risk factors.3
The 2018 ACC/AHA Guidelines recommend that cholesterol management be based on a persons lifetime cardiovascular risk.1
If your family has a history of early heart attacks or heart disease, or if a child has obesity or diabetes, doctors may recommend screening for high cholesterol more often.
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Teen With High Cholesterol Gets Healthy With Help From Family Pediatrician
At a regular checkup to see her family pediatrician, 13-year old Danielle Martinez learned that her cholesterol levels were dangerously high. With triglycerides at 460, she was more than 300 points above the recommended level for a healthy adult. And worse, if Danielle didnt lower her cholesterol, she would likely develop type 2 diabetes within a few short months.
Danielles pediatrician, Cindy Gellner, MD, had a plan to help Danielle. Gellner prescribed regular exercise, a visit to a dietitian to learn healthy eating habits, and monthly visits where she could monitor Danielles progress. She also worked with the Martinez family to ensure they had the tools and support needed to turn Danielles health around.
At Westridge Health Center, one of the health centers at;University of Utah Health, doctors strive to tailor healthy living programs for each patient. Gellner explains, We review each patients diet, exercise, and social structure to see where each person needs improvement or support. Children over 10 years old also have blood work done to check lipids, glucose, insulin levels, thyroid and liver function. Doctors then follow up monthly to see how patients are feeling, to review and reset goals, and to check weight and body mass index.
Misconception: Using Margarine Instead Of Butter Will Help Lower Cholesterol
Butter is high in saturated fat and has some trans fat ;raising LDL cholesterol and contributing to atherosclerosis. But many hard margarines also have a high amount of saturated and trans fat.
The healthiest choice is a liquid or soft tub margarine. These are made with vegetable oils. They have less partially hydrogenated fat and saturated fat than solid spreads such as hard stick margarine and butter. Look for margarines that say 0 g trans fat on the Nutrition Facts label.
Switching from butter to soft margarine is a good step. But by itself, it probably wont reduce your cholesterol to healthy levels.
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Cdc: 1 In 5 Teens Has Cholesterol Problem
One in five teens in the U.S.and more than 40% of obese teenshave abnormal cholesterol, whether it’s low HDL ; high LDL ; or high levels of triglycerides, another type of blood fat, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention .
THURSDAY, Jan. 21, 2010 One in five teens in the U.S.and more than 40% of obese teenshave abnormal cholesterol, whether its low HDL ; high LDL ; or high levels of triglycerides, another type of blood fat, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention .
The findings suggest that the American Academy of Pediatricss 2008 guidelineswhich recommend more aggressive cholesterol testing and intervention in kids, particularly the overweight and obesemake sense, the authors conclude.
The 2008 guidelines created controversy because, for the first time, cholesterol tests were recommended for overweight or high-risk children as young as 2 years old, and treatment with a cholesterol-lowering statin was an option for children as young as 8 who had bad cholesterol, or LDL, over 190 mg/dL, and who couldnt lower their cholesterol with diet or exercise.
But adding confusion to the controversy, 2007 guidelines from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force say the evidence is insufficient for cholesterol testing in children and young adults up to age 20.
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Heres How It Happened: Much Of Cholesterol Is Due To Genetics
Your body produces cholesterol, and some people simply make more of it.
So if you have a genetic predisposition to high cholesterol, yours will likely be elevated no matter how much you weigh, says Susan Besser, family physician with Mercy Personal Physicians in Baltimore. No amount of dieting will fix it.
The opposite may also be true you may be overweight, but if you have the high-cholesterol gene, youre more likely to have normal cholesterol levels, she says.
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Children Between The Ages Of 9 And 11 Should Be Screened
Most of us are aware that high cholesterol is a health risk for adults, leading to a build-up of plaque in the arteries and a higher risk of heart disease.
But fewer of us know that the risks from high cholesterol can start in childhood. Even young children may have high cholesterol, explains , Director of the Lipid Heart Clinic at Childrens Hospital of Philadelphia.
Whether caused by genetic factors, poor nutrition or lack of exercise, high cholesterol in children is something to take seriously. Studies suggest that many young and middle-aged adults with heart disease may have had untreated cholesterol problems as children. And the incidence of high cholesterol in children is growing.
The current guidelines recommend that all children have their cholesterol levels checked in a blood test between the ages of 9 and 11, and again when they are between 17 and 19, says Dr. Brothers. Children with special risk factors, including those with a family history of heart problems and children who are overweight, should have their levels tested earlier and more frequently.
Causes Of High Cholesterol In Children And Teens
While many high cholesterol risk factors can be kept under control, familial hypercholesterolemia isnt one of them. This condition is a genetic defect thats passed on from parents to their children, and one that causes bad cholesterol levels to be inherently high in the blood. Basically, people with familial hypercholesterolemia are born with high cholesterol levels, and while the condition cannot be treated entirely, it can be managed and kept under control.
The implications of having familial hypercholesterolemia are pretty much the same as with regular high cholesterol levels. When cholesterol gets out of control, it can lead to plaque formation on the artery walls, but having high cholesterol levels also exposes children and adults who suffer from familial hypercholesterolemia to the risk of coronary heart disease.
Studies have revealed that males are more likely to develop;heart disease faster than women are. Naturally, the risks involved with having familial hypercholesterolemia depend on a series of other factors as well.
Children and teens who have familial hypercholesterolemia can inherit it from one or both parents, and there are specific tests which can be performed in the early stages of life to identify the presence of this mutated gene.
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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.
Misconception: You Should Wait For Your Doctor To Mention Cholesterol
You need to take charge of your health. Starting at age 20, ask your doctor to test your cholesterol, assess your factors and estimate your risk for a heart attack or stroke.;
If youre between 20 and 39, your doctor can assess your lifetime risk. If youre between 40 and 75, they will assess your 10-year risk.;
Once you know your risk, you can take action to lower it. Your doctor may recommend diet and lifestyle changes and possibly medication. Follow all of your doctors instructions and have your cholesterol and other risk factors checked every four to six years as long as your risk remains low.
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Low Cholesterol Diet In Children
The American Academy of Pediatrics-recommended diet for the high-risk group is similar to that recommended for the population but restricts saturated fat to 7% of total calories and dietary cholesterol to 200 mg/day. Research in children as young as 7 months of age have demonstrated that these dietary recommendations are safe and do not interfere with normal growth, development, and sexual maturation
The success of this diet depends on a number of factors, including the saturated-fat intake before changes are implemented. Because dyslipidemia is often a familial problem, some children will already be on a diet relatively low in saturated fat. For these children with a genetic cause of dyslipidemia and LDL concentration of 190 mg/dL, it is unlikely that diet alone will achieve appropriate concentrations of LDL. Nevertheless, it is important to implement dietary changes that are associated with reduction of LDL concentrations, which may allow for use of lower doses of pharmacologic agents when they are started. Dietary changes are still an important part of any long-term intervention.
Dietitians can also help children and their families navigate the food environment outside the house, which has become increasingly important because more children do more eating outside the home environment.
Misconception: With Medications No Lifestyle Changes Are Needed
Medications can help control cholesterol levels, but making diet and lifestyle changes are the best way to reduce heart disease and stroke risk. To lower your cholesterol, eat a heart-healthy diet and get at least 150 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise a week.
Its also important to take your medication exactly as your doctor has instructed.
Learn more about cholesterol medications.
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Bloating And Digestive Issues
The main reason for increased;cholesterol levels;is overeating fatty and fried food affects our liver and produces bad cholesterol in the body. If you are facing high cholesterol, then you may feel bloated even after eating significantly less.;
Your stomach makes you feel heaviness and disinterest in appetite. The excess flow of lipid substance directly affects the metabolism and triggers the digestive system in your body, and you feel bloating and heaviness.;
If you are constantly feeling these issues, then you must go for a;lipid profile test.;;
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.
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Can High Cholesterol Be Prevented Or Avoided
Making healthy food choices and exercising are two ways to reduce your risk of developing high cholesterol.
Eat fewer foods with saturated fats . Choose healthier fats. This includes lean meats, avocados, nuts, and low-fat dairy items. Avoid foods that contain trans fat . Look for foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. These foods include salmon, herring, walnuts, and almonds. Some egg brands contain omega-3.
Exercise can be simple. Go for a walk. Take a yoga class. Ride your bike to work. You could even participate in a team sport. Aim to get 30 minutes of activity every day.
And Trust Me Genetics Matter A Lot
My doctor immediately wanted to put me on cholesterol-lowering medication, but I requested a chance to lower it myself. I was already taking a few pills daily to prevent migraines, so I didnt want to be adding more to my nighttime routine.
Ive been writing about health and wellness for more than a decade, so I knew exactly what I should be doing to lower my cholesterol. I just couldnt believe that I had to do it.
Ive always had a diet high in dairy, so I switched to almond milk, and I lowered my intake of ice-cream . I doubled the length of my dogs walks, feeling proud that I was making all of us healthier.
And then I took another cholesterol test six months later. It hadnt budged.
So I started taking statins .
Fortunately, I had no side effects , and my cholesterol dropped down to normal in six months. I added dairy and ice-cream back into my diet because why not? everything was going well.
Everything was going so well, in fact, that I decided that I didnt need cholesterol medication anymore.
After all, Im skinny and Im 38, and if the cholesterol medication worked so quickly, then there was no reason why I shouldnt start taking it when Im 50 or maybe even 60, when heart problems are more likely.
I quit, without the approval of my docs. My cholesterol jumped back up again immediately. And then I got yelled at by my father and by my doctors.
Apparently, my logic was a bit off.
This could all lead to heart attacks and strokes, Besser explains further.
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Treatment Of High Cholesterol In Children And Teens
Regardless of whether the doctor prescribes medication for high cholesterol or not, keeping these fats under control has to be done through a healthy diet and more physical exercise.
A healthy diet;for people with high cholesterol levels, and in general, implies avoiding pretty much every type of food that adults with high cholesterol levels should avoid as well, which includes trans fats, red meat, fatty meat, foods that are rich in cholesterol, sugar, alcohol, smoking, fat dairy, and the likes.
Mediterraneandiets are considered to be the optimal choice for both children and adults with hypercholesterolemia, focusing mainly on consuming healthy oils , lots of fruits and vegetables, nuts, whole grains, and fish.
Integrating exercise into the routine of a child who has high cholesterol levels is mandatory, as regular physical activity;goes a long way toward;keeping the child’s;body;healthy. Exercise can also help with weight loss, which is important because obesity has now become a widely-spread phenomenon among;children in Northern America.
Should Kids Have Their Cholesterol Checked
- By Lloyd Resnick, Former Editor, Harvard Heart Letter
Why would a pediatrician draw blood from your 9-, 10-, or 11-year-old at his or her next annual wellness visit? Because the American Academy of Pediatrics recently endorsed that call for checking LDL cholesterol levels in all kids between the ages of 9 and 11.
The cholesterol-test recommendation created quite a stir. But wait, theres more. The guidelines also call for annual blood pressure checks beginning at age 3, and periodic blood sugar measurements starting between ages 9 to 11. Theres also a strong recommendation for kids and adolescents to limit sedentary screen time to two hours or less per day, and to get at least an hour a day of moderate physical activity.
The biological basis for these guidelines is that atherosclerosis starts during youth. In many cases, so do the high blood pressure, blood sugar, and LDL levels that feed atherosclerosisright alongside the lifestyle habits such as poor diet and lack of exercise that boost the numbers. If unaddressed, atherosclerosis progresses inexorably.
The guidelines are really about getting kids, their parents, and their doctors to talk about making healthy lifestyle choiceswhat to eat and drink and how much exercise and sleep to get, for example. When young people know where they stand with these cardiovascular risk factors, they get a head start on doing things to potentially avert life-threatening or chronic illnesses in middle age.
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