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Cholesterol Levels in Children

Obesity in children is a growing concern in the United States but what many parents aren’t aware of is the fact that high cholesterol levels in children are just as dangerous to their health. Of course we would probably assume that an overweight child would most likely have unhealthy cholesterol levels in his or her bloodstream, but this is not always the case. In fact, some children within healthy weight ranges also have high cholesterol levels which is why parents should be informed about when, why and how to monitor their child’s cholesterol levels.

Which Children Should Be Monitored?

While any child can have high cholesterol, the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that only children with certain risk factors should be tested between the ages of two and ten and never before two years of age. Risk factors revolve around genetics at that age rather than eating patterns. For example, if there is a family history of having premature coronary artery disease or high cholesterol levels then those children are thought to be at risk. Premature coronary artery disease is under the age of 65 for women and under the age of 55 for men. These children should be tested again at three to five year intervals thereafter if their lipid profile is within the normal range.

Treating High Cholesterol in Children

In children under the age of eight it is usually recommended that high levels of cholesterol be treated through diet and exercise. After the age of eight, some children may be treated with pharmaceuticals, but usually not before that age. Of course parents should always be cognizant of the foods they feed their children and should try to opt for low fat foods whenever possible.

Healthy Dietary Cholesterol Levels

Also, saturated fats and trans fats should be avoided if at all possible. It is suggested that a child should eat less than 30% of his or her daily calories from fats but be aware of the fact that this only applies to children over the age of two. Less than 10% of daily caloric intake should be from saturated fats while parents should avoid giving their children trans fats altogether. For children in high risk groups or who test with high cholesterol, keep total fat intake to less than 7%.

FDA Approved Cholesterol Drugs for Children

As mentioned, children over the age of eight can be treated with cholesterol lowering statin pharmaceuticals. At the moment, the FDA has approved a drug called Pravachol for use with children at risk because they are genetically predisposed to high cholesterol. While there are a number of OTC supplements that adults use to lower cholesterol, these products should never be used in children. They most likely have not gone through clinical trials and are not recognized as being safe for children to use. Only your child’s pediatrician should prescribe cholesterol lowering drugs for your child.

It has been substantiated by medical science that children with high cholesterol are at risk for certain diseases and high cholesterol levels will be more difficult to treat as the child matures. Responsible parenting necessitates protecting your child against obesity, heart disease and even diabetes wherever possible. If you have a family history of known risk factors, act responsibly. Have your child’s cholesterol levels checked after he or she reaches two years of age. This will help to keep your child safe from unnecessary risks and will go a long way towards helping him or her maintain a healthy weight. Your child will thank you for it someday!

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