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Cholesterol is usually a term that we associate with people as they start growing up in life and the various problems of an ageing body start catching up. To associate it with children is quite a surprise for many since cholesterol problems are usually connected to a long-term lifestyle and poor fitness habits. Hypercholesterolemia in childhood is a possibility that is increasing today and, not only is it devastating for the kids’ bodies, it also starts increasing the risks of a multitude of cardiovascular disorders in such children pretty early in life.
What is Cholesterol?
Compared to many other health-related issues that occur due to external factors, cholesterol is a naturally-occurring substance that is produced by our body itself. It can be categorised with various lipids and fats, all of which are extremely important in supporting the growth of new cells by strengthening the membranes, as well as stimulating hormonal growth. Cholesterol usually resembles a wax-like element and is generated primarily by our liver.
Types Of Cholesterol
Within cholesterol itself, there are two types of it, one of which is beneficial for the body, while the other is not.
1. Low-Density Lipoproteins
Complicated as it might seem initially, these cholesterols are generally termed as “bad cholesterol” even though these are pretty much the very basic constituents that carry cholesterol from one part of the body to the other. Throughout this transfer, if the percentage of LDL proteins is high in the blood, they start depositing themselves along the walls of the arteries where blood flow is the maximum, causing those arteries to narrow down. This puts extra pressure on the heart to pump more blood in order to ensure appropriate supply. This buildup of plaque is what many people usually term as high cholesterol, which leads to the formation of clots, blocked arteries, all resulting in damaging internal organs and even resulting in a heart attack.
2. High-Density Lipoproteins
Like a twin to the earlier evil kind, these cholesterols are termed “good cholesterol” since these proteins pretty much reverse the action carried out by the bad cholesterols. HDL proteins work in extracting these deposits from the arteries, and return them to the liver, where they are processed all over again, and transmitted properly to various body parts. Doctors do focus on increasing HDL levels in people since they even reduce the plaque as well as maintain proper functioning of the body’s blood circulation system.
Normal Cholesterol Levels in Kids
Kids have an extremely different lifestyle when compared to adults. Therefore, the acceptable levels of cholesterol for them is quite different. In children, where the age might range from 2 years to under 18 years, an acceptable cholesterol level is demarcated at anything below 170mg/dL, within which the actual level of the LDL proteins ought to be below 110mg/dL. Depending on variations among children, a borderline cholesterol level is based up to the limit of 199 mg/dL, with LDL at 129mg/dL. Anything above this is detrimental to the child and is not healthy for him.
What Causes High Cholesterol in Children?
Kids usually have a high metabolism and tend to need a lot of energy as well as use up a lot of energy throughout the day. Therefore, when high cholesterol is detected in children, it is usually due to a few major factors.
- The current lifestyle is focused on fast food and many poor eating habits, which expose the child’s body to various trans and saturated fats, leading to high cholesterol levels.
- Such a diet combined with a sedentary lifestyle, choosing to play video games instead of outdoor sports, can result in obesity, further increasing cholesterol risks.
- If the family has a history of various people suffering from cholesterol problems, the same could be observed in children due to hereditary reasons
How is High Cholesterol Diagnosed in Children?
Cholesterol screening in children is conducted in hospitals by taking a look at certain factors that can help establish an understanding of whether the child has a high cholesterol level or not.
Not all children require to be screened. Kids below 8 years old are screened only if risk factors are present. Until 11 years old, it is best to get a screening done. If not risks are present, then no screening is required until your child is an adult, following which another screening should be undertaken.
In screening, blood tests have conducted that work towards measuring the presence of various lipid levels in the blood. These blood samples are taken after an overnight fasting on an empty stomach. The lab tests work towards recognizing the presence of both LDL and HDL proteins, calculating the percentages of good and bad cholesterols. These are accompanied by checking various aspects of triglycerides that indicate the possibility of heart-related issues later in life.
In case the levels seem to be higher than should be present in a child of his age, your doctor might ask you questions about any symptoms that are shown by the child, or inquire about various lifestyle choices. Furthermore, a medical history of your kid will be studied to look for possible markers and signs behind the presence of high cholesterol. To check for obesity or any other physical factors, a full examination might be conducted as well.
Foods that Contain Cholesterol
The liver in the body produces a healthy amount of cholesterol that supports proper functioning without any support. The higher levels are simply a result of consuming different food items that contain the extra cholesterol. These majorly are:
- A variety of milk-based products such as ice cream, cheese, etc.
- Consumption of seafood in high quantities
- Opting for chicken or even red meat that contains cholesterol
- A daily inclusion of eggs with their yolks, having a lot of cholesterol in them
Treatment for High Cholesterol in a Child
If your kid has been diagnosed with high cholesterol, opting for a low cholesterol diet for kids might be one of the ways to begin a rudimentary treatment.
This needs to be supported with an individualized counselling on the front of nutrition, primarily if your child has an LDL level higher than 130mg/dL. The nutritional changes will help in reducing the amount of fat entering the body, which also needs to complement with a change in lifestyle, focused on the inclusion of physical activity on a daily basis. If the risk is higher or the levels are dangerous, then the doctor might choose to administer some medication as the final resort.
How to Lower the Cholesterol in Kids?
There are certain ways you can start off with right away to reduce the cholesterol level in your kid, or undertake preventive measures to avoid it from happening.
- Make a holistic lifestyle change for everyone. Bring the entire family to spend some time together in a physical activity that benefits all.
- Your kid needs to get a lot of exercise in the day. At least an hour of rigorous play is absolutely mandated for good health.
- Keep a restriction on the frequency of consuming cakes and other bakery products. Choose to replace them with healthy fruits and vegetables, or even low-fat alternatives.
- Don’t make a habit of consuming soft drinks and sugary juices that are commercially available.
- Change your cooking oil. Opt for vegetable oils or healthy cholesterol-free alternatives.
- When giving milk to your child, choose a low-fat variant instead of the usual one.
- Do read the nutritional facts mentioned on the boxes of food items. Make sure your child does not end up eating more than 300mg of cholesterol in a day.
- Don’t restrict protein intake to a single source of meat. Flesh it around different sources.
- Put together a diet that is focused on vegetables, fruits, grains, sprouts, etc.
- Check your own health. If your own cholesterol levels are high, chances are your kid’s might be too.
Even the most natural substances can be harmful when they are present in the incorrect amount within our body. Rather than figuring out how to reduce cholesterol in children by medical treatment, it is always best to adopt a healthy lifestyle and disciplined eating choices that prevent such instances from occurring in the first place.