Why You Should Know Your Child’s Cholesterol Levels

When we think about cholesterol numbers, we typically imagine middle-aged adults with a propensity for cardiovascular disease, yet it’s become necessary and advisable for modern American parents to know their child’s acceptable cholesterol levels – even if that child is only 10 years old.

Researchers have found that American children could face significant health problems later in life because of inactivity and a standard diet that is increasingly high in fat and low in nutrition. Statistics show that one-third of children are overweight and 17 percent are obese. Because of this frightening epidemic, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released new guidelines for treating overweight kids to offset the potential for future health complications. These guidelines include cholesterol screenings for kids between two and ten years old if they have a family history of high cholesterol or heart disease. The AAP has also recommended cholesterol-lowering medications for obese children who have trouble losing weight – this would be in addition to lifestyle changes such as increased physical activity and nutritional counseling.

These may seem like aggressive recommendations, but many physicians consider it necessary to gain control of heart disease in this country. High cholesterol levels found in children will likely only progress without some form of intervention, which will inevitably contribute to heart disease and stroke later in life.

Although the AAP recommends medication for children with higher than normal cholesterol levels, it is viewed only as a supplemental line of defense – not a first fail-safe resort. Initial treatment should involve weight management, improved diet and exercise. For more concerning cases, medication can be prescribed for children as young as eight. Most pediatricians will proceed with caution before prescribing medication to your child, while also recognizing the need to reign in the epidemic of childhood obesity and how it could impact your child’s health in the future. Family history is no longer the primary risk factor for cardiovascular conditions – obesity is.

In light of the AAP’s stricter guidelines regarding child cholesterol, parents should pay closer attention to their child’s numbers and be sure to have an annual wellness check conducted, including blood work. If you have a strong family history of heart disease or an overweight child, you may not be able to avoid prescription medication; however, there are several others things you can do to offset future problems: feed your child a diet low in fat, especially saturated and trans fat and cholesterol; make sure to prepare balanced meals so your child can get all the necessary nutrients; and encourage a lifestyle of activity and exercise.

To truly play an important role in averting future health risks to your child, don’t settle on medications or health lectures when trying to control kid’s cholesterol levels. Serve as a positive role model by eating right, exercising and having annual wellness checks. Childhood obesity is an increasing epidemic that requires direction intervention from parents and, although prescription medication can play a role in that intervention, it ultimately comes down to choices that your child will be able to maintain throughout life.

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