High Cholesterol in Children -
Guidelines for Healthier Kids

high cholesterol in children

High cholesterol in children has become a growing problem, which has lead to new cholesterol guidelines for children. High cholesterol levels detected in young children and teenagers may lead to the development of adult atherosclerosis, a condition that causes a buildup of plaque in the arteries.

Fortunately, lifestyle changes adapted early in life can reverse this trend.

Why Are Guidelines For High Cholesterol In Children Needed?

Researchers in the area of pediatrics, nutrition and heart disease found scientific evidence that plaque can begin to build within the arteries during childhood.

The researchers stated “Scientific evidence shows that atherosclerosis begins in childhood and is related to nutrition habits which affect blood cholesterol levels in both children and adults.” (1)

The new understanding of the time table involved for the onset of early cardiovascular risk prompted an evaluation of the nutritional needs of a growing child. This has also lead to screening recommendations to detect high cholesterol in children.

High Cholesterol in Children – Who Should Be Screened?

It is not recommended that every child be screened for high cholesterol levels. However, if a child or adolescent has a family history of heart related risk factors, he or she should be screened.

A child or teenager should be screened if:

- He or she has a parent or grandparent who was diagnosed with atherosclerosis by the age of 55.

- He or she has a parent or grandparent who was diagnosed with artery disease or experienced a heart attack by the age of 55.

- He or she has a parent with a blood cholesterol level that exceeds 240.

It is estimated that half of the children who qualify for screening would need some type of treatment to lower their cholesterol level. This treatment could include dietary changes or in some cases medication (only for those over 10 years of age).

Levels To Determine High Cholesterol In Children

High cholesterol in children is rated as acceptable, borderline and high. For children age 2 – 19 years old, the following cholesterol levels are used to determine a child’s rating:

Acceptable - less than 175 mg/dl (less than 4.5 mmol/l) Borderline – 175 – 199 mg/dl (4.5 – 5.1 mmol/l) High – 200 mg/dl or greater (5.2 mmol/l or greater)

Children with a borderline cholesterol level will be encouraged to make changes to their diet. Children with a high cholesterol level will need to make changes to their diet and may also need cholesterol lowering medications.

Diet Recommendations To Lower High Cholesterol In Children

Healthy diet recommendation when working toward lowering high cholesterol in children should focus on the consumption of dietary fat. Some fat in a child’s diet is healthy, but if a child is at risk of high cholesterol, then total fats and saturated fats should be limited.

The recommendations outlined below are for children over the age of two. Fat and cholesterol are vital to an infant’s proper growth. At the age of two or three, children begin to shift their diet and adapt eating styles and habits more in line with older family members.

It is important to remember that balance is needed for any child or adolescent as he or she is growing. Therefore, some higher-fat food items should still be allowed in moderation. Foods such as hot dogs, pizza, ice cream and french fries can be incorporated into a daily diet as long as they are balanced with healthy food choices.

Health food choices, which will help a child meet his or her dietary guidelines include fruits and vegetables, grains, breads and cereals (preferably whole-grain), and legumes. A child can also consume low-fat dairy and milk products as well as lean read meats, turkey, chicken and fish.

The chart below shares the recommended guidelines for total calories, calories from fat and grams of fat. This average calorie amounts may vary due to the amount of exercise and other health requirements unique to a child.

Boys Guidelines

Age ... Total Calories ... Calories from Fat ... Grams of Fat

7-10 ...... 2,000 ............ 600 .................. 67

11-14 ..... 2,500 ............ 750 .................. 83

15-18 ..... 3,000 ............ 900 .................. 100

Girl’s Guidelines

Age ... Total Calories ... Calories from Fat ... Grams of Fat

7-10 ..... 2,000 ............. 600 .................. 67

11-14 .... 2,200 ............. 660 .................. 73

15-18 .... 2,200 ............. 660 .................. 73

High Cholesterol in children is closely linked with family history. By demonstrating healthy eating habits, parents can positively influence the eating habits of their children.

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