September: National Cholesterol Education Month

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The National Academy of Pediatrics is recommending wider cholesterol screening for children and more aggressive use of cholesterol-lowering drugs in the hopes of preventing heart disease. September is National Cholesterol Education Month. Do you know your kids’ cholesterol? QUESTION: HOW MANY KIDS HAVE HIGH CHOLESTEROL LEVELS? We don’t know. Cholesterol is seldom tested in children, but according to the American Heart Association, the atherosclerotic process can begin in childhood and progress slowly into adulthood. There isn’t data suggesting rising cholesterol levels among kids, and the Journal Pediatrics recently published a finding that total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol have remained stable among adolescents from 1988-2000, while triglyceride levels have dropped. The big problem among children is obesity. Currently 30 percent of U.S. children are either overweight or obese. Keep in mind that cholesterol itself doesn’t cause heart disease. Heart disease is initiated by infection, toxicity and inflammation. Cholesterol is used to protect the body against this inflammation and the resulting damage, but it can end up clogging arteries, resulting in heart disease. We can’t just look at cholesterol, but rather look for the initial cause of the inflammation. QUESTION: WHICH KIDS SHOULD BE SCREENED FOR CHOLESTEROL? If your child is active, eats healthy foods and is not overweight, you probably don’t have to worry about cholesterol. The following criteria indicate who should be screened: if one parent has a total cholesterol greater than 240 mc/dl, of one parent or grandparent was diagnosed with heart disease before age 55 and if the child is overweight or obese. QUESTION: WHAT ARE THE CHOLESTEROL GUIDELINES FOR CHILDREN? A cholesterol level over 200mg/dl is considered elevated, but the LDL and HDL cholesterol levels more accurately reflect the risk of heart disease. LDL cholesterol tends to build plaque in the artery and HDL cholesterol helps the body remove lipids from the blood. TOTAL CHOLESTEROL FOR AGE 2-19: ACCEPTABLE: below 170 mg/dl BORDERLINE: 170-199 mg/dl HIGH: above 200 mg/dl LDL CHOLESTEROL ACCEPTABLE: below 110 mg/dl BORDERLINE: 110-129 mg/dl HIGH: above 130 mg/dl QUESTION: WHAT SHOULD KIDS DO IF THEY HAVE HIGH CHOLESTEROL? Every attempt should be made to encourage lifestyle changes to reduce the cholesterol. Medication should be considered only after a legitimate trial of diet and exercise changes that do not lower cholesterol. Cholesterol medication safety studies were only one year for boys and six months for girls – not long enough to determine long-term effects on hormones, growth and liver function. Cholesterol is needed for hormone productions and vitamin D synthesis. Low cholesterol levels are associated with depression. Diet and exercise can have a dramatic effect on cholesterol and heart disease. Kids need to: •Exercise most days of the week •Avoid soft drinks and reduce sugar and refined carbohydrates •Avoid trans fats and damaged fats found in fast foods, fried foods and snack foods •Eat more fruits and vegetables and whole grains like oatmeal, barley, quinoa and buckwheat •Eat more fish and take a fish oil supplement •Eat cultured dairy like yogurt and kefir