High cholesterol in children is fast becoming a major cause of concern. It’s time to take precaution to make them healthy. High cholesterol not only affects adults but also children. These days many kids, too, have high levels of cholesterol, which can cause health problems later as they get older. Too high cholesterol leads to a build up of plaque on the walls of the arteries. This can narrow the arteries which supply blood to the heart, thus blocking blood supply to the heart, causing heart ailments and stroke.
Causes of high cholesterol in children In children, the high cholesterol level has these risk factors:
- Heredity: In most cases, kids with elevated cholesterol have a parent who has high cholesterol too
How is high cholesterol diagnosed in children? Doctors can check cholesterol in school-going children with a simple blood test. The blood test results will reveal whether a child’s cholesterol is too high. 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. Screening is advised for kids with a family history of high cholesterol or blood fats or a family history of premature heart disease. Screening is also recommended for children who are overweight and who have other risk factors such as smoking, diabetes or high blood pressure.
What is the treatment? The best way to treat cholesterol in children is with a diet and exercise programme that involves the entire family. Here are some tips:
- Eat foods low in total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol.
- Select a variety of foods so that your child can get all the nutrients he or she needs.
- Exercise regularly. Regular aerobic exercise, such as biking, running, walking, and swimming can help raise HDL levels (the ‘good’ cholesterol) and lower your child’s risk for cardiovascular disease.
- If diet and exercise alone don’t improve your child’s cholesterol level, your child may need to take medication such as cholesterol-lowering statin drugs. A child’s cholesterol level should be retested and monitored after dietary changes are made and/or medication started as recommended by your child’s Doctor.
Eat right Here are some examples of healthy foods to give to your child.
For breakfast: Fruit, non-sugary cereal, oatmeal, and low-fat yogurt are among the good choices for breakfast foods. Use skimmed or 1 per cent milk rather than whole or 2 per cent milk (after the age of two, or as recommended by your doctor).
For lunch and dinner: Bake or grill foods instead of frying them. Use whole-grain breads to make a healthier sandwich. Also give your child whole-grain crackers with soups and stew. Always serve fresh fruit (with the skin) with meals.
For snacks: Fruits, vegetables, breads, and cereals make great snacks. Children should avoid soda, juice and fruit drinks.