Cholesterol is a waxy, fatty substance manufactured in the liver, but also is found in foods that come from animal sources, specifically dairy products, eggs, and meat. Some cholesterol in the diet is needed for the body to function properly, but too much puts you at risk for heart disease. It’s especially tricky to diagnose, since there are no outward symptoms, but left untreated, high cholesterol can result in narrowing and hardening of the arteries resulting in heart disease. Not just relegated to adults, more and more children are being diagnosed with high cholesterol at a young age.
Main Causes of Childhood High Cholesterol
The primary causes of high cholesterol in children are a family history of heart trouble, diet, weight, and the lack of physical activity. The extended use of computers and television have produced a generation of Americans, young and older, with elevated cholesterol levels. These high levels can be inherited, but more often results from the lack of a healthy diet and exercise. The only way to diagnose high cholesterol is with a blood test, and should be performed on children nine years of age or older.
How to Treat High Cholesterol
The treatment of high cholesterol involves a lifestyle change which will benefit the entire family. Avoid processed foods which contain saturated fats, trans fats and sugars. Limit fast foods to an occasional treat. The entire family can become more physically active. Doctors prescribe children from ages five to eighteen to have at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day, which can include cycling, playground activities, yard games, and running. A family bike ride around the neighborhood before dinner is a great way for parents to bond with their children, while getting everyone away from the computer and television and moving. Likewise, soccer games for young children, and more sophisticated games, like hockey and flag football, are ways to get the entire family involved in physical exertion.
When All Else Fails
Medication for high cholesterol is the last resort, and should be prescribed only if diet and exercise fail to produce results. In any event, the child should be over ten years of age before any medication is prescribed, and should only be taken if there are extenuating circumstances, like diabetes, high blood pressure, or a genetic history of heart disease. Most often, a simple change in lifestyle will eliminate high cholesterol young age.