High cholesterol is often thought of as a problem that you only have to deal with as an adult. Most people do not think they need to worry about cholesterol levels in their children, but that is not true. We are learning and understanding that the early signs of coronary artery disease may begin to develop in childhood, especially in children when other risk factors for the disease –such as a significant family history of heart disease, obesity, or diabetes – are present.
While some debate exists regarding the management of high cholesterol with medicines in children, the American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends that some children have initial lipid screening after 2 years of age and before 10 years of age.
Cholesterol screening is recommended for children with:
- Family history of high cholesterol
- Family history of early cardiovascular disease (55 years or younger in men, 65 years or younger in women)
This screening is a simple blood test and is best done when your child has not had anything to eat for 8 or more hours. This is called a fasting lipid profile.
If your child’s cholesterol levels come back normal, this test should be repeated every 3 to 5 years.
If your child’s lipid levels come back elevated, treatment may be necessary. For children of all ages with high cholesterol, increasing activity and exercise along with dietary changes with the goal of achieving and maintaining a healthy weight are essential. If after appropriate dietary changes the LDL is still greater than 190 mg/dL (or greater than160 mg/dL if other risk factors are present), the use of cholesterol-lowering medications may be indicated in children over 8 years of age. Your child’s doctor can provide more information and can discuss specific treatment options for your child if necessary.
SecondsCount’s discussion of “Children and Cholesterol” offers details and tips about how you can keep your child’s diet heart healthy.